Message From Our Pastor...
For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
- I Corinthians 1:25
An experiment is a sort of test, designed to evaluate a
hypothesis or theory. When you set out to test ideas and evaluate
what’s going on it can get a little messy. But that might just be the
point. In any experiment you switch up some variables, hold other
things as constants, and look to see what happens. Way back in June I
said that the rearrangement of our worship space was an experiment and
at the end of the Pentecost season that experiment will come to an end.
I know some of you are relieved to know that, I also know that some of
you have really enjoyed experiencing worship this way. In the end I
think that’s the best question we can ask ourselves as we work together
as a worshiping assembly – “How did we experience worship?”
Note two things: Worship is a whole body experience. Worship engages
all our senses, our movements, our physical bodies, our attitudes and
our feelings. For more information on that you can check out the 2013
documents “How do we use the body in worship?” and “How does worship involve all our senses?” which can be found on the ELCA website. In the 2010 Discussion Guide, The Place Where we Worship, it says:
Art shapes faith, whether or not the intention is to proclaim the
gospel. The architectural and building arts shape worship space. And
worship space forms and shapes Christians. It is here, in the space of
creation, in the materials of creation, where we meet God. We form our
spaces and then our spaces form us. (For good or for ill.)
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright said this about houses, but it applies to
houses of worship too: “Every house is a missionary. Space that is
trans-formative changes the people who live there. Every house is a
missionary. I don't build a house without predicting the end of the
present social order.” On rededicating the House of Commons, Winston
Churchill said: “We shape our spaces and then they shape us.” In the
book, Where We Worship, retired Professor Walter Huffman (retired
professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary) says: “The shape of the worship
environment will shape the faith of the next generation.”
Also, the question said ‘we’ not ‘I’. We worship together as a gathered
assembly. We don’t worship as individuals alone. We gather, whether two
or three or one hundred four, to worship. Worship is a communal event.
In the 2002 document, Principles for Worship, it says:
The first Christians spoke of their communal shelter and worship space
as the “house of the church” (domus ecclesiae). Family dwellings became
venues for worship not only because of persecutions but also because of
theological convictions. Early Christian tradition spoke of the
gathered assembly in relation to its place: “It is not a place that is
called ‘church,’ nor a house made of stones and earth. . . . What then
is the church? It is the holy assembly of those who live in
righteousness.”93 Over the centuries, the building itself became
identified as church, yet the assembly remains the primary expression
of the church.
So how did the ‘we’ and the singular ‘you’ experience worship over the
past four months? Did you notice the positive or get stuck in the
negative. Did the physical changes affect how worship felt to you
beyond them just being new or different? Did you notice different parts
of worship differently; did something old stand out to you as new or
In the 2010 Discussion Guide, The Place Where we Worship, it says:
This much we do know; As Lutherans we’ve never been afraid of using all
the arts (including architecture, music, etc.) in the service of the
As Lutherans we usually think about theology first; other traditions
may begin with polity, or history, or church organization, or culture.
We usually begin thinking about a topic by thinking theologically. In a
discussion about architecture or art that’s important, otherwise we’re
stopped cold by a tyranny of multiple “opinions.”
We look for some theological, pastoral and aesthetic principles to
guide our thinking. Gathering the assembly around word and meal and
bath is the only necessary thing. The church happens where the gospel
is preached and the sacraments are administered according to the
gospel. The church has no building code, save proclaiming Christ
crucified and risen.
In, Principles for Worship,
which is available from the ELCA website, there is an entire section on
worship space that includes principal, background and application
statements. There were a number of reasons behind the rearranged space
beyond just because we could and I want to point a few out to you now.
In the final few weeks remaining I hope you can open yourself up to a
couple of them.
Principle S-2 The place of worship expresses the church’s faith and serves God’s mission.
Many rooms for worship are configured and appointed in ways that
inhibit the worship of the assembly. Renewed understandings of worship
may call for creative use of existing space or the reordering of
worship space so that it better serves the church’s worship and mission.
Principle S-7 The
assembly space includes primary centers for the celebration of the word
of God and the sacraments, secondary areas that facilitate the roles of
all the leaders, and other spaces that complement the requirements of
The unity of the entire worship room proclaims the unity of the
assembly, gathered into one in Christ. Communicating a sense of oneness
and wholeness as a gathering place of the baptized community is of
first importance, followed by consideration of different areas within
the space that correspond to different roles and functions in the
Principle S-8 The
place and the practices of baptism proclaim the church’s faith. A
generous space around flowing water reinforces the meaning of baptism
for the assembly.
Access to the font affirms the communal nature of baptism. When the
place of baptism is near the main entrance, the understanding of
baptism as the sacrament of Christian birth and as commissioning for
ministry is reinforced. Wherever the font is located, it serves its
role best when it is visible and there is sufficient space for
gathering around it. At times, children in the assembly may be invited
to gather closest to the baptismal group.
Principle S-10 The table of our Lord Jesus Christ is set in the midst of the assembly.
Before and after his passion, Jesus shared meals with disciples and
others as a sign of the kingdom. The Eucharistic altar has taken many
shapes throughout Christian history. Designs that suggest a table for
dining have been used to reinforce the nature of the Eucharist as meal.
Principle S-17 A
hospitable worship space generously accommodates the assembly, its
liturgy, and a broad range of activities appropriate to the life of the
congregation and its surrounding community.
An understanding of the physical and experiential needs of children
contributes to the design of liturgy and liturgical spaces that are
inviting to all.
Flexibility of space and portability of furniture facilitate the
variations of worship as well as related activities of congregation and
The ability to arrange the furnishings within the worship space in
various ways gives a congregation the freedom to adapt as changes and
new ideas are introduced.
Principle S-25 The renewal of a space for worship is an opportunity for the renewal of a worshiping
Building, renovation, and even limited but imaginative renewal projects
represent significant experiences in the life of a congregation. From
vision to blueprint to implementation, the process is an opportunity
for congregational growth in faith and life.
No experiment truly succeeds the first time. But there is much that can
be learned as work to expand our sense of what it means to gather and
worship as an assembly here in this place. Perhaps one of the best
lines from the discussion guide was in the closing when it says, “This
is a gradual process of renewal that we began in the 16th century
Reformation, and we’re still working on it!”
Go in Peace, Serve the Lord – Thanks be to God.