The setting wasn't ornate, but the impact was overwhelming. Musicians and preachers surrounded worshipers' seats. Three prayer areas were divided by black curtains and adorned with dozens of candles. Each prayer area had a different activity: One emphasized meditation on different Bible passages, another focused on candle lighting, and a third one with chicken wire held individual prayer requests that could be traded and taken home for further devotion. Welcome to Re:Wired Worship, a new and diverse artistic prayer experience for young adults offered at Temple Terrace United Methodist Church. Lairyn Stimmel was among the 25 young adults who attended a recent Re:Wired event. "My jaw dropped when I walked in," said Stimmel, 19, a University of South Florida sophomore. "It was a simple, basic setup, but so warm and so inviting."
It was in these areas, Stimmel said, that everyone felt particularly free to worship as individuals.
"I saw people crying, on their knees, bowing, just worshiping in so many different ways," she said of the Jan. 13 gathering. "Young people like to do what they want, when they want, how they want, and this gave us all the opportunity to connect with God in a way that is meaningful to each one of us."
Re:Wired was developed by Todd Leet, 37, director of college and young adult ministries at Van Dyke Church in Lutz. Looking to establish a service that was more experiential than traditional and would attract a diverse, young population, Leet teamed up with members of USF's Crosswinds Methodist ministry, New Millennium Community Church and Temple Terrace United Methodist.
"This generation is hungry for a real experience with God," said Leet. "Now we've pulled together different Christian communities of faith that are diverse culturally, and in how we approach worship."
Leet plans a variety of prayer modalities. There will be drama, poetry, dance and music, including rap, hip-hop, acoustic and jazz. In addition to time set aside for worshipers to engage in the hands-on activities, services will include musical worship, sermons and meditation. Those who visit are encouraged to bring journals so they can take notes for further contemplation.
Stimmel, who was raised in a predominantly white, middle-class church, was especially taken with the diverse guest presenters at the first service, including USF student Jennifer Geneus, who offered prayers in Creole, and Pastor Mike Neely, senior pastor at New Millennium.
Neely, who founded New Millennium, is known for his out-of-the-box approach.
Of Neely's sermon, Stimmel said, "He wanted us to cheer, hoot, holler, clap and scream for God. It's a different kind of passion and praying than I've ever experienced. It just pumped me up completely."
The eventual goal of Re:Wired, Leet said, is to help young adults eventually become permanent church members and move on to more active, lifelong roles such as missionary work.
"This isn't intended to be a church, but rather a launching point," he said.
"Ultimately, we want to filter these young adults to a community of believers, a church, that will give them the family they need."
Contact Sheryl Kay with any religion news at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (813) 230-8788.