Well, it’s official. For the next 12 weeks, Holy Communion is evicted from its own sanctuary and exiled to its basement, also known as the infamous Mark Hurn Room. (I have no idea who Mark Hurn was, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t an interior decorator, judging from the decidedly mediocre look of this room.) I can think of a few sanctuaries I’ve been in (which will remain unidentified) from which I would welcome eviction but ours isn’t one of them. It’s one of those timelessly beautiful spaces where you find yourself worshipping the moment you enter it. Nothing has to be said or sung. It’s that lovely.
Or should I say it was that lovely. Now it’s full of scaffolding and miles and miles of plastic sheeting . . . and it’s hard to believe that it will ever be like it was, let alone even more beautiful. But that’s what we’ve been promised.
In the meantime, we are in the Mark Hurn Room – and I am actually rather astounded at how nice that room has been made. And I am one of the all-time idiots when it comes to arranging furniture or choosing drapes or anything having to do with making places pretty (as Kathy could readily attest) but I can claim credit for one very good idea. (I guess I was overdue.) The worship and music committee had been thinking that we would arrange the room with the altar on the stage and the congregation arranged in straight rows of chairs extending all the way to the back – much like our regular sanctuary is. That would have been okay, but I got to thinking back to Good Shepherd – our church in Decorah – and how sometimes the chairs in the sanctuary would be completely rearranged so that instead of facing the front of the room in lots of straight (and boring) rows, the chairs would be gathered in semi-circular rows facing the side of the room – a much warmer, friendlier setting. And that’s what I suggested for our summer worship – and they liked the idea! And thanks to a lot of nice touches added by the committee members (like colorful banners on the walls) plus the removal of eyesores (like the tattered and torn window shades) it’s a surprisingly pretty room now. (I wish it had been half this pretty when we had our wedding reception there 18 years ago.)
Rather than treating this experience as a three-month exile, Pastor Jeff came up with the idea of making the summer a Journey around the world – with each Sunday spent in a different country. Yesterday we began in Scandinavia, singing hymns from Sweden, Denmark and Norway – – – and other Sundays will take us to England, Spain, Africa, the Caribbean, Germany – – – and several Sundays will be spent exploring early American hymns, spirituals, contemporary American hymns, etc. And for a finishing touch, most Sundays will be spent with appropriate treats from each nation served between services. So yesterday there was lefse, swedish meatballs, and kringle plus some disgusting-looking herring that nearly caused me to renounce my faith, cancel my membership in the church and flee the country- almost. (Thank goodness for the lefse.) And the best thing was that almost everybody stayed around for the fun.
It was Pastor Steve Wohlfeil’s turn to preach, and his sermon was a perfect launch for the summer. He said among other things that when we take trips, we almost always have to leave certain comforts behind- and make do with what we can carry with us. And for most people, even the most expensive hotel’s bed can’t hold a candle to the comfortable, familiar bed back home. So it is with this summer journey. It would be nice if we could be seated in our familiar pews with that splendid pipe organ accompanying the hymns . . . but it’s simply not possible. So we’re traveling light and in doing so we learn what is most essential when we gather for worship. And in the end, it’s got very little to do with how beautiful the room is- and so much more to do with the hearts of the people gathered there.
pictured above: Pastor Steve leads worship in the Mark Hurn Room. And notice how many people are sitting in the front row. Even when relegated to the basement, Lutherans are still Lutherans!