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"The Journey" brings contemporary, evening worship service to Morris area

Greg Kneprath, worship and creative director for Morris E-Free Church (second from right) has organized a contemporary Saturday evening worship service called ?The Journey,? which focuses on music and simplicity to offer a space for attendees to connect with God.1 / 2
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MORRIS - On Saturday evenings, the sanctuary at Morris Evangelical Free Church looks a little more like a rock concert than a church service.

Just before 6:00 p.m., the darkened room is lit up with a video counting down the minutes until "The Journey" - a contemporary worship service centered on music that hopes to help participants connect with God without some of the more familiar elements of a traditional church service.

Greg Kneprath, worship and creative director for Morris E-Free Church, said part of the idea for "The Journey" is to give people in the community an opportunnity to reconnect with God in a new way.

"There was a need for something on a Saturday night that's just a little more different, a little more relaxed," said Kneprath. In conversation, the word Kneprath most often uses to describe "The Journey" is "simple."

Since Kneprath began working for Morris E-Free Church about 2.5 years ago, he has helped the church differentiate their different worship offerings.

On Sunday mornings, for example, the church offers two different services - one very traditional service at 8:30 a.m. and a contemporary service at 10:30 a.m. - rather than two "blended" services that tried to combine elements of both.

"Our contemporary service has just continued to grow and grow," said Kneprath. "We're at the point where we're looking at what to do to add on ... there are mornings when there is not a seat left."

As the success of the contemporary service grew, church leadership asked Kneprath to explore adding a contemporary Saturday evening service. Although the church has a rich history of parishioners involved in agriculture, the congregation has branched out to reach young families, young professionals, and college students.

"The Journey" begins at 6:00 p.m. with a video countdown to help build excitement each week. Unlike a more traditional church service, there are no announcements or bulletins - the real focus is on a mix of music and worship.

"My idea for a service like this is that it's for the young and the young at heart," said Kneprath. "We're not going to be apologetic that the music might be pretty upbeat, it might be a little on the loud side."

The service uses colored lights, fog machines, videos and music as a way to "block out the periphery" and help participants relax to focus on worship. Each week is different, but the crux of the service is music to help settle minds and hearts, with a short message delivered through multimedia.

"That's why I appreciate the Saturday night service - it's uncluttered, it just really helps focus you in and gives you time to just be alone with your thoughts," Kneprath explained.

At 7:00 p.m., the service concludes and participants are invited for more fellowship over snacks and refreshments. Recently, Kneprath has added a breakout session, "The Journey Further," a time for teaching open to participants interested in exploring more.

In the first six weeks, Kneprath said response to the service has been great, bringing in people from other churches and towns in the region. Many of the musicians that Kneprath plays with are from other churches, building a sense of unity in the community.

"That's the real crux of what I want to see from this service - people out in the community and the region that need to get back to the basics, about things between them and God, and not religion," said Kneprath. "Come and see what God has to say to you."

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