Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Our Church Visiting Adventures - Part 2
On Sunday we made one of our visits to a surrounding church to visit our neighbors. Unfortunately, we weren't able to take in their worship service because of some unforeseen circumstances, but we did make it in time for their Sunday school session.
The pastor greeted us in the parking lot and pointed out the direction to follow for Sunday school. Upon entering the door, we were immediately greeted by a familiar face - a high school friend's mother. It really is a small world! I also discovered that one of the librarian assistants at our little local library attends the church. After greetings, it was explained that their Sunday school format is less traditional in the summer. They had been thinking on different ways to speak to the hearts of those who might connect with things in a more visual manner rather than the norm of words and reading that make up so much of a worship service. Thinking on the idea of stained glass that was once created to tell stories to the illiterate, they decided to create some stained glass images of their own. Using tissue paper behind black paperboard as their canvas, they first brainstormed symbols and colors that spoke to them of the ordinances of communion and baptism. Each unique and colorful, they asked us as visitors to share what we saw in their creations and how the images spoke to us. They were planning to display the boards during a re-affirmation of baptism service that night, as well as future communion observances.
We had a conversation about why some denominations choose not to use stained glass images in the sanctuaries, as well as the traditions of various heritages pertaining to architecture, painted images, etc., within their church buildings. Though their Presbyterian church is very old (and one would assume would have stained glass because of illiteracy), it was begun by Germans and was given a very plain appearance in architecture and decor.
The class had planned a field trip later in the S.S. hour to a local church that has stained glass windows for inspiration and ideas. But before leaving, the pastor offered us a look into their sanctuary. The three of us ended up having a wonderfully spontaneous and stimulating discussion of several things - traditions and principles behind the ideas of a raised pulpit and clapping during worship, thoughts on baptism, and how to incorporate various visual helps within ordinances and other services as reminders.
The pastor also shared the reason behind the teddy bears that sat in pews throughout the sanctuary. It being an idea they developed to give members and visitors alike an easy way to witness to others. The bears were there to take and give to someone in need of encouragement as a tangible sign and reminder of God's love and the church's prayers on their behalf. There was an area in the narthex designated as the "bear den" in which people could donate a bear or make a donation to the bear ministry.
I so appreciated the rich and mentally stimulating time we spent as this little church, and we hope to get back in the fall to take in a worship service. (And they're going to begin a book group then that I might have to investigate!) As usual, it was truly a blessing to connect with others of like faith in our community . . .