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Worship team leader creates settings for experiential worship

By changing the settings for worship experiences, Admiral UCC’s worship team leader helps people experience worship through all of their senses—sight, sound, feeling and touch.

Admiral UCC forest in sanctuary

After four Sundays in September, David Pelton and other members had brought plants, fabric and natural items to make a mini forest in the sanctuary to draw attention to creation care.
Photo by David Pelton

Admiral UCC in West Seattle set up a mini forest in their sanctuary as part celebrating “Seasons of Creation,” related to its using the Sunday school curriculum, “Seasons of the Spirit” during September.

The “forest” included a 22-foot potted maple tree, driftwood, rocks, a water feature and the sounds of chirping birds.

Children and adults brought pine cones, twigs, acorns, seeds, branches, shells, feathers, leaves and stones to contribute, along with yarn, cloth, string and paper

David Pelton, the church’s worship team leader, created the setting to appeal to all senses, because “the experience of worship can come to us through all senses—sight, sound, feelings and touch,” he said.

It was designed to help us celebrate the Earth, and realize we are not rulers of Earth but partners with it,” he said.

Each week, worship celebrated a different element, forest, land, wilderness and river.  Each week he added something to the altar.

“As a gardener, I brought potted plants from my garden and I created a river with blue fabric,” he said.  “Each week, we had a runner of a different color and an object on the altar to represent what we were celebrating that week.”

The first week, the runner was green and the maple and a potted cedar plant were set up.  The next week the runner was brown and there was soil in a large glass cylinder.  Yucca plants were added to represent wilderness for the third week.  A fabric river “flowed” through the setting the final week, with a fountain behind it providing water sounds during worship.

Use of the “Seasons of the Spirit” is growing around the world, he said.  The Sunday school curriculum includes worship resources.

“The resources not only helped us celebrate creation, but also challenged us to see ourselves more as a part of it, to recognize that it is a gift from God and we are only stewards of it,” he said.  So we need to do our part to sustain and nurture the creation all around us. The season has been a big hit, and will undoubtedly be repeated next year.”

Pelton has provided such settings to enhance worship at other times.  During Lent one year, he set up six dirty, decrepit doors.

“They were an eyesore and stirred conversations,” he said.  “Then on Easter Sunday, the doors were refinished and repainted in bright, cheerful colors.”

Another Lent, he set up mannequins dressed in tight, drab clothing.  He moved them around the sanctuary on different Sundays.

“We wanted people to reflect through Lent about who we are open to and to realize that other people are people of God,” Pelton said.  “On Easter Sunday, they were dressed in bright clothing.”

He will help coordinate members interested in working on a display for Thanksgiving to help stimulate the senses and intellects.

A member of Admiral since 1993, Pelton has been on the worship team for five years.

A lifelong UCC member, Pelton grew up on a ranch in Montana. He taught high school, living in various communities in Montana.  He was later a letter carrier before he moved to Seattle in 1989.

“I’m spirit filled.  I have the energy and creativity I need to share while I’m physically able,” said Pelton, who is also event coordinator for the church’s annual dinner and auction, and launched a community lecture series, “We Are Family,” first Mondays starting in October.

“I am a gay man totally accepted in the congregation.  The acceptance fills me with the desire to share my time and talent,” he said.  “In Montana, I was closeted.  It was not safe to be out.  I came out after I moved to Seattle.”

For information, call 206-932-8662, email Montana or visit


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © October 2011





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