A Message From Our Pastor...
pastor message

November/December 2019

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 more impactful?
 
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 gospel.

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.
Application S-2D
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 communal worship.
Application S-7B
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 liturgy.
 
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.
Application S-8B
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.
Background S-10A
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.
Application S-17C
An understanding of the physical and experiential needs of children contributes to the design of liturgy and liturgical spaces that are inviting to all.
 
Principle S-19 Flexibility of space and portability of furniture facilitate the variations of worship as well as related activities of congregation and community.
Application S-19C
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
community.
Application S-25A
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.


-Pastor Chris

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