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Kyna Shilling brings theater skills into worship planning

Kyna Shilling, a life-long—32 years—member of Plymouth UCC in Seattle, incorporates her backstage theater skills into creating a 9 a.m. intergenerational, interactive worship experience that has some spill-over in the 11 a.m. worship.

During Lent, she and her mother have designed the early worship services as a time of contemplation, incorporating writings by young people and based on services at Holden Village.

Group gathers for prayer, kneeling around low table and reflecting on a cross.  This is one of the worship experiences Kyna Shilling has helped to prepare for the community at Plymouth UCC in Seattle.

Photo courtesy of Kyna Shilling

“We have the room darkened and use no bulletin or projection,” Kyna said.  “The music is simple, Taizé style.  Two worship leaders present the spoken word and prayers.  We have 15 minutes of singing chants.

“We invite people to come forward and kneel at a long, low table to light a candle,” she said.

In the time of praying for people, some people who seek to be prayed for come forward and others, including middle school youth, come forward and lay their hands on the person.

“It’s a powerful prayer presence,” Kyna said.

During Lent in the worship space, there are bare branches above the orchestra shell.  Light hits them and casts a shadow on the wall behind.

Not only did Kyna design that visual, but also she climbed up on a ladder and put it in place.  She also worked with the carpenter who built the low table for the candles, designing it so it could be folded and put away.

That’s how she brings her artistic design sensibilities into worship.

“We have strong lay leaders who participate in planning worship, taking time to brainstorm how to express a worship theme,” said Kyna.

In addition to being on the PNC staff as the camp administrator for Pilgrim Firs and N-Sid-Sen, working on the online registration and running facebook for both camps, she has worked for 10 years as production associate at Taproots, a Christian based theater out of Seattle Pacific University.

Kyna, who grew up in Seattle where he parents moved in the early 1980s from Chicago, earned a degree in theater and backstage work in 2007 at Occidental College in Los Angeles.  Her work with Taproots combines two things she cares about: faith and theater.”

Kyna is involved with props, lighting, painting, organizing, sound, stage management, technical direction and sometimes costumes.

“I love storytelling and the collaborative process of working with people to bring a story to an audience,” she said, noting the connection with worship planning around a theme.

“The church tells the story of our relationship to God.  We read Bible stories of previous people of faith and tell stories for immediate impact,” Kyna said.

She helps incorporate into Plymouth’s worship tactile, technical and visual ways to make worship interactive, using her theater skills.

“Plymouth is committed to change the ways we worship,” she said.

Kyna finds the pastor, Kelle Brown, who came in 2015 encouraging of working collaboratively with a planning team and worship coordinator to worship in a creative style.

They are also consulting with the national Center for Progressive Renewal to develop a strategic plan.

“We are changing our worship culture to be trusting as we try things out,” she said.

For information, call 206-919-5962 or email


Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News © April 2017


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