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How do you praise God in the culture of the iPod?

Some folks need structure. Liturgy. Others need rock 'n' roll. Some churches hope to satisfy them all.

Published February 8, 2006

SEMINOLE - Referring to a church service as the Edge is guaranteed to send some traditionalists packing, or at the very least, scrambling for earplugs.

It's not what happened at Faith Presbyterian Church, though, where the Edge, a service with squealing electronic guitars and an energetic lead singer, debuted Sunday.

Worshipers at the Seminole church have other options. There is a service for those who prefer old-fashioned worship and another for those who want something more contemporary.

It's an option many mainline congregations are offering as they struggle to stem the flow of members away from their churches and attempt to find ways to entice new worshipers.

"I think across the United States churches are working to make worship more inviting and hospitable to people of all walks of life," said Jill Crainshaw, a professor at Wake Forest University's Divinity School.

Besides trying to boost membership, churches introduce new styles of worship to accommodate members from different generations, she said.

But change can bring tension, Crainshaw said.

"People become very committed to certain ways of worship. They become afraid of losing something that is meaningful to them. But the things that are meaningful to them might not be meaningful to newer generations."

At Bay Point Christian Church in Pinellas Point, the congregation of about 125 active members is too small to introduce a second service, the Rev. Jay Cave said. His answer is to offer a "blended" service, one that includes both traditional and contemporary elements.

"We try to straddle the fence," Cave said.

Offering a blended service "is basically a survival thing," he said. "I think it's pure and simple pragmatic. I'm serving the people who show up for our worship. We have a lot of people who show up who have never sung a hymn.

"You have a whole host of people who are unchurched, people that feel uncomfortable with things they don't understand. What we kind of want to do is we want to have something in our church that can touch everyone."

The service begins with praise music, which lasts from 10 to 10:30 a.m. An anthem opens the traditional segment, which includes Communion, hymns and a sermon. The morning then ends on a contemporary note.

Despite the popularity of contemporary services, some observers don't think traditional worship will disappear. In fact, said Crainshaw, some younger people are attracted to traditional services with their structure and rituals.

And, she added, the debate about traditional vs. contemporary is a bit ridiculous, since Bach and other traditional elements were contemporary in their day.

St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral offers a Come As You Are, or CAYA, service with a profusion of candles and music every Sunday at 6 p.m. to complement its traditional services.

"It was to offer something totally different from regular Episcopal churches," the Rev. Georgene Conner said this week.

The service attracts regulars as well as people who just stop by to see what the service is like, she said. Since it began several years ago, it has been moved from the parish hall into the cathedral.

The most popular service at Faith Presbyterian, 11501 Walker Ave. N, is its contemporary service, the Rev. David Miller said.

"The contemporary does average 25 to 100 more people" than the traditional service, said Miller, who hopes to attract 20- to 35-year-olds with the Edge.

"For me, this has been a very important issue in my ministry, the relationship between culture and faith. . . . Our goal is not to exclude people, so we are trying to broaden the style of music we engage in."

[Last modified February 8, 2006, 01:15:22]

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