Seabury Resources for Aging® Introduces Common Threads: An Intergenerational Worship Series

Seabury Resources for Aging®
Posted Feb 10, 2023

Abby Madden and the Rev. Billy Kluttz lead a paperless song during a Common Threads workshop.

Seabury Resources for Aging® is pleased to introduce Common Threads: An Intergenerational Worship Series – and to announce a rare opportunity on March 16th to learn firsthand from the series’ creators.

“I’m beyond excited that after four years of composing, writing, and filming, the entire Common Threads liturgy and curriculum are now available online for churches to download and use,” said the Rev. Billy Kluttz, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Virginia. “It was so much fun for me to write original music and liturgy for these services, as well as create a how-to guidebook and video series so that churches can learn and equip their members and staff to be creative, inclusive worship leaders in their contexts.”

Radically inclusive and highly participatory, Common Threads uses a stations model of worship and focus on storytelling to connect congregations across generations and abilities. Over four services – themed on joy, sorrow, hope, and change – participants engage in creativity, conversation, and worship, considering their own experience in light of Scripture. Each one-hour service culminates in Holy Communion.

Common Threads uses a worship format known as traditioned innovation. Each service follows a traditional four-fold worship pattern of gather, read the Word, respond to the Word, and celebrate Eucharist together. But much of the action takes place at worship stations designed to promote accessibility, choice, and interconnectedness in what planners describe as “parallel worship/play.” Tables (“stations”) for art making, drumming, guided storytelling, and discussion of short reflections surround a Communion table set in the middle. Services open with song and liturgy, and close with communion and a song, but in between, in lieu of a sermon, worshipers engage the day’s Scripture and theme by rotating among the stations.

During an evening devoted to the theme “Change,” a young man listens intently as an older man recounts his faith journey. In the drum circle, two young boys and two older men take turns changing up the beat. Drumming increasingly faster, they dissolve into peals of laughter. In the far corner, a table full of older women reflect on a passage from Frederick Buechner’s Listening to Your Life about the March on Washington in 1963–then share their own remembrances of attending that event. Pens, crayons, beads, and pencils are shared about the art station along with Scripture reflections and life stories.

The paperless music and paperless liturgy of Common Threads promote inclusive worship: Dispensing with the heavy hymnals and prayer books that can prove challenging for younger and older people alike, worshipers engage eye to eye. Stations allow younger and older participants to share their thoughts about the Scripture and theme, without any shame or trepidation about not being able to sit still through a long service The traditioned innovation extends to the Eucharist, too, with built-in moments for participant responses.

Common Threads is now available as an on-demand course through the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s School for Christian Faith and Leadership, The on-demand course includes the downloadable Common Threads guidebook featuring four original liturgies and original music, and six short instructional videos. These resources are also available on the Seabury Resources for Aging® website.

Save this date: On March 16th, the Rev. Billy Kluttz and church musician Abby Madden will demonstrate how to conduct Common Threads at a live Zoom workshop. Register here. Kluttz and Madden were instrumental to developing the series, and are featured in the Common Threads videos. Don’t miss it: When Kluttz and Madden offered a similar workshop before the pandemic, an ecumenical group of more than 40 people from across the country gathered online to learn Common Threads techniques. Reserve your spot.

Common Threads was developed by Seabury Resources for Aging®. Funding came from Vital Worship Grants from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment, Inc. Seabury partnered with Episcopal and United Church of Christ congregations in piloting the series at Seabury at Friendship Terrace and Seabury at Springvale Terrace, senior living communities in Washington, DC.