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Michael Tino Presenting dynamic and creative worship services was the focus of Rev. Michael Tino’s keynote presentation at the 2008 District Assembly. He encouraged everyone to think about what our worship services look like, sound like and feel like – especially for newcomers. Then he presented the idea that worship which strikes people as whole can be intellectually rigorous, but worship which is truly dynamic respects people as whole human beings.

According to Michael Tino, the key to creative and dynamic worship is moving away from the polarizing either/or thinking of spiritual vs. intellectual and toward the direction of both/and when it comes to what people need. He believes that worship can be spiritually moving and intellectually challenging at the same time.

Taking an intentional look at the sound, look and feel of worship services can go a long way toward presenting a dynamic experience without changing the core message. Tino believes that how we choose whose voices are heard, what is seen as part of the experience and the ways that we open up participation communicate a strong message, particuarly to newcomers. He cautioned us that some ways of opening up participation encourage only those people who are extroverted or highly opinionated to share what’s on their minds and that we need to be intentional about whose voice is heard and how.

But dynamic worship is not just experienced through sights and sounds, according to Tino. He presented the idea that attention must also be given to the energy level, and to consider ways in which people can get their bodies moving. Intentionally offering opportunities for people to worship with their whole bodies – and not just their brains – deepens the level of the experience and adds to the feeling of wholeness.

Tino challenged us to consider what elements of our worship services might intimidate those people who are new to our congregations and to explore some things that we do which unintentionally exclude people. While many of our rituals are important to our religious communities, they can be offputting to those people who are unfamiliar with them.  The key to welcoming newcomers while keeping some of these traditions is to consider their limitations, address them, and make them over so that they are welcoming to new arrivals.

He encouraged us to think about ways the worship experience can connect us with others, offering the idea that our search for truth and meaning is enhanced through relationships with people who are different from us. After all, according to Tino, worship is a public ministry and should be treated as such. He believes that people need to understand from the worship forms and content that they are welcome. Worship can and should speak to people whose needs, learning styles and backgrounds are different and diversity of many forms of worship can be represented if it is done intentionally.