The Thomas Mass, a nontraditional worship service popular in Europe, will be available regularly in Oak Park starting Sunday, September 18, when United Lutheran Church introduces this innovative ecumenical event locally.
The new service will be held at 5 p.m. at the church, 409 Greenfield St. (Ridgeland and Greenfield), and thereafter on the third Sunday evening of each month throughout the fall—October 16, November 20 and December 18. Weekly Thomas Masses are planned for 2017.
The Thomas Mass, which began in Finland in 1988, will be an opportunity for people of all faiths—or for doubters or the simply curious with no faith—to celebrate, worship God, serve their neighbors and grow together.
The intent is not to tell worshipers what they should believe or what they ought to do with their lives. Rather, the Thomas Mass is meant to provide an interesting, stimulating setting in which to address questions of faith and God, and in which to explore how Jesus can offer guidance in many of life’s challenges.
United Lutheran Church leaders adapted the European model in line with what they learned from conversations with local people and, in particular, from the results of a survey taken during A Day in Our Village in June.
“This type of service seems ideally suited to the Oak Park community,” said Pastor Dennis Bushkofsky of United Lutheran. “While it is strongly rooted in deep Christian traditions, the accent of our worship will be on what following Jesus means today, rather than emphasizing doctrinal differences that the church may have had in previous centuries but that are not so relevant now. We invite people from any or no religious background to join us.”
The Thomas Mass will feature lively, engaging music provided by professional musicians, as well as robust worshiper participation in singing. The 40-50 minute worship service will feature readings from the Bible and a brief message. All people may share in the communion meal, and everyone can take part in all the other aspects of the Mass as they consider what it is to be a Christian in the 21st Century.
For about 20 minutes before the start of every Thomas Mass, interested worshipers will be able to speak to a prayer leader in confidence about anything for which they seek healing or forgiveness. Worshipers may also light candles at one or more prayer stations and write down prayer requests if they wish.
After each Thomas Mass, everyone is invited to remain in the worship space for informal conversation and simple refreshments.
In Finland, the Thomas Mass continues to be celebrated every Sunday evening at Mikael Agricola Church in Helsinki, where it began, as well as elsewhere in Finland and in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany. The service was named after the Apostle Thomas, the notorious disciple who questioned Jesus’ resurrection, but who has been an inspiration for all people who have questions in their faith journeys.
It attracts hundreds each week, mainly young adults and working-age people, who appreciate its spirit of experimentation and the blending of modern spirituality and ancient tradition.
Find additional information about the Thomas Mass in Oak Park at www.thomasmass.us.