Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sanctuary in the round

If you've been to services in the past couple of weeks, you've surely noticed a big change in the sanctuary - a new seating arrangement. We're experimenting with "services in the round" or, more accurately, "in the octagon." In brief (more to come, later) we're trying to play with our physical arrangement to see what effect it can have on our prayers. Can our seating plan help us feel more connected, more spiritual? Can it make praying easier, or more meaningful?

This is definitely a big change, and it will take some getting used to. Having led one service already in this configuration, I can tell you that there were some thing I loved (a much stronger sense of "being together") and some things which bothered me (it's hard to give a d'var torah in the round. I nearly made myself dizzy trying to give equal "face time" to everyone). And, that's to say nothing of the logistics (e.g. sound) which will be iffy, unless and until we decide to make this more permanent.

Of course, what we really need is to hear from our pray-ers - you! What do you think? Have you had a chance to participate in "services in the round," yet? If so, what was good, and what was bad? Please make comments below, and let's get the conversation rolling!

1 comment:

StefWiss said...

I share your opinion... it both works and doesn't work. Having a more traditional introduction to Judaism has made me more skeptical because it is not what is "traditional".
But I was willing to give it a fair test.
I have both attended services and helped lead services in our new set up. I have also helped prepare several or our students to step into a totally new set up for what is already stressful for them.
As a congregant, I do like the intimacy and the ability to see everyone (wave at friends, make faces, etc). I like that I can see better during services (i am short and cannot see over many heads in the traditional set up).

As a leader of services, i like the intimacy and the fact that everyone is sitting around in a "circle". Being a teacher, i know the benefits of having everyone around in a circle- there is more equality. Emphasis off of the front seat vs. back seat. (Sorry-- the teacher thing always wins out!)

One disadvantage of the set up is definitely the awkwardness of feeling like you need to be spinning around or on a turntable platform (hey there's an idea! I bet Larry could build it!). As the sometimes musical leader, there is an additional disadvantage. Can't spin around while playing the guitar and trying to follow music. I am not good enough on guitar to be able to float around that easily without totally messing up what i am trying to do. Therefore, i feel like I am slighting people who chose to sit behind me and get a glorious view of my not better side. (that again could only be served with spinning platforms-- maybe one for the cantor and one for the rabbi spinning at different speeds so that everyone can come away with different variations of motion sickness)

Seriously, though, I have heard comments from non member visitors who like the concept but immediately see the problem. Maybe placing the stands as part of the circle would help that part of te issue.