Saturday, February 14, 2004

Contemporary services: old message, new style

Faith matters

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

Churches in traditional Christian denominations aren't subscribing to the notion that they have to be old-fashioned.

Westwood First Presbyterian Church, 3011 Harrison Ave., will join hundreds of mainline churches when it adds a weekly contemporary service at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 29.

"I think what our church is trying to do is go the next step and meet the challenges of the next generation," said church member Diana Cron. "We want to offer a variety of worship for people."

The service is more than just newer music. Church members are configuring their fellowship hall to accommodate a more relaxed service, including doughnuts and coffee, said Co-Pastor Cinda Gorman.

"They're putting themselves into this heart and soul," she said.

Pastors see newer services as a way to reach more people.

"For 20 or 30 years, many churches have missed the mark for being relevant and reaching younger people," said Associate Pastor Bruce Crane at Westwood United Methodist Church, which began a contemporary service at 11 a.m. Sundays last June. "God has called us to reach them, and we need to present the Gospel, the same message undiluted, to people in the way they need to hear it."

At St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel, on the campus of Xavier University, the 7 p.m. regular parish service has been reaching young people with upbeat music for more than 20 years.

"The benefit is that there's a strong sense of community and an opportunity for lay people to be involved," said Pastoral Associate Karen Branstetter.

The chapel hosts a student-organized 10 p.m. service that attracts about 400 students. The service includes baked bread, music performed by students and even input on homilies.

"We can't make the Scripture come alive for college students if 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds are planning the homilies. Their input really makes the services come alive," said Kelly Albainy-Jenei, the campus minister who coordinates the Mass.

At St. Susanna Catholic Church in Mason, adding a sixth Mass three years ago provided a chance to incorporate contemporary music into the 7 p.m. Sunday Mass.

"For a long time there wasn't a very large body of good liturgical contemporary music. That's changing," said Music Director Lynn Meisberger.

MUSLIM LEADER TO SPEAK: Imam W. Deen Mohammed, founder of the American Society of Muslims, will speak on "Leadership in the African-American Religious Community" at Xavier University Sunday at 2 p.m.

Mohammed, the son of Elijah Muhammad, the former leader of the Nation of Islam, has worked to stress the Quran in transforming the group.

The event is free to the public.

To submit religion news, e-mail or send a fax to 755-4150.

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