Two worship services now run in parallel at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral on Sunday mornings. Alongside the traditional choral service, a new, informal worship zone takes place in the building’s Concert Room. Canon Richard White explains more about Zone2.
The 10.30am Sunday Eucharist takes place in two 'zones' simultaneously. People can choose whether to attend the choral service in the main cathedral space, or Zone2.
This development comes out of considerable prayer, discussion and reflection by the Chapter over the past eight months and is enthusiastically supported by them as central to our cathedral's commitment to mission and evangelism.
We are committed to creating ways to worship that are culturally accessible for a wide range of people. Many find our existing worship immediately attractive, beautiful and moving. It is 'mission-shaped' worship for those people. It is growing in numbers and we aim to attract many more to it. Others though, especially those without a church background who aren't used to classical music and formality, can find it somewhat intimidating and uncomfortable. For many people today, finding their way into our worship is as foreign and threatening as going into a betting shop to place a bet would be for some traditional churchgoers.
Visitors to the new 'zone' make their way down to the Concert Room where we set out large, round tables in café style. Good filter coffee, soft drinks, croissants, and fresh fruit are served so that everyone feels welcome as soon as they arrive. Many of the components of a more traditional Sunday morning service are found in the new 'zone' with Bible reading, teaching, confession and prayer being expressed in an informal and interactive style with all ages worshipping together.
People at Zone2 have the opportunity to go up to the main cathedral service to celebrate Communion for the last part of our time together but others prefer to stay with us and continue to be part of what's happening in the Concert Room. People can chop and change between the two, as suits them. All are welcome to either.The new format, which has been running for about the last six weeks, takes place every Sunday during school term times.
Parents attending the choral service can leave their children at the new 'zone' where recognised adult hosts supervise and care for them. Others come to Zone2 as a family unit.
I've been impressed that our cathedral statement, 'A safe place to do risky things in Christ's service' is referred to frequently in discussions and decisions. Sometimes our tendency to shorten phrases leads to the last three words being dropped but, of course, they are the reason the cathedral exists. In Christ's service we meet, give, work, plan, spend and make decisions about risky opportunities. By definition, risk sometimes go wrong. If we never fail then we're just pretending - which is why the risks are only worth taking if they are genuinely in Christ's service.
Zone2 is a new and exciting venture and will need a period of experimentation. No doubt there will be teething issues and practicalities we hadn't anticipated as we enter this risky thing in Christ's service but, although it's early days as yet, it has been very encouraging to see an average of 60 people coming along. Some people have already said they see it as their church; others have spoken about being able to relax in this environment rather than feeling quite stressed about how their children are reacting to what's going on around them in a more traditional setting.
We are not trying to abolish traditional choral formal worship because the cathedral does that superbly well but in a cathedral building you have got the space to make a choice. It's wonderful that people here now have that choice.