The Journey in Longmont, Colo., is a Christian Reformed congregation of about 60 people in a small mountain city, just over 30 miles northwest of Denver. Since September 2022 those who worship there have been experimenting with new (and sometimes old) ways to practice discipleship in contemplative or non-traditional worship services once a month.
Called “Discipleship Sundays,” the practice started in part because the church’s part-time worship leader stepped down and a shift to volunteer-led worship left one Sunday a month without a volunteer. Rick Ebbers, The Journey’s pastor who planted the church 23 years ago, said, “It was born out of that necessity, but we very quickly shifted to, ‘How can we be intentional?’
“Maybe this is an opportunity that God is giving us to think intentionally about what worship and discipleship can look like,” he said.
One week they hosted what they called a sanctus or “holy” service that involved different stations including meditative time with a prayer labyrinth, journaling, art, Scripture reading, a prayer request wall, and communion. Ebbers said it was “a great opportunity to shut out the busyness of the world and get quiet.”
Another week they helped the church’s Trail Life Troop (a boys group similar to Cadets) assemble care packages for those in their community experiencing homelessness. Other weeks have included a prayer service, a Colossian Forum meeting focused on having conversations around sensitive topics, and a day dedicated to cleaning up the greenway next to the church.
Ebbers said he hopes Discipleship Sundays might help worshipers connect with God in new ways. “It’s so easy to get into routine, and I get excited that we might actually help someone get out of the routine rut and be able to have God meet them in that moment in a way that they might not be open to in another typical worship service,” Ebbers said.
Barb Bulthuis, an elder at the church, said, “I have very much enjoyed experimenting with different ways to connect with God and others. My favorite so far was the Colossian Forum week.”
Ebbers said feedback from the congregation has been mixed. Some people have told him that they come to Discipleship Sunday with anticipation, while other people in the church are more inclined to value the familiar and find the services a little disruptive.
The church intends to continue with the Discipleship Sundays until September 2023. At that time, they will reevaluate the monthly services to determine how they would like to move forward.