Why Church shouldn’t always be in Church
It’s a common hall, a nothing-to-take-your-breath-away community space. Low ceilings. Florescent lights. Non-worship stuff is stored there from folded and stacked conference tables to GAME ON beach balls to materials used to make Ugly Quilts. Don’t forget the many bulletin boards aimed for—and designed by—the kiddos. Hardly space for worship.
Or is it?
I’m not the only one who is going to miss the informality, the camaraderie, and even the rousing, spirited fun our Lecture Hall offered newcomers and members alike. As we restored our church following significant damage by the mid-May hailstorm that hit Harford and surrounding areas, we were kept from our 218-year-old sanctuary.
So unlike any crystalline palace on a “who’s who” historic church registry, and far from a brand new modern worship space looking nothing like any crystalline palace just mentioned, the church Lecture Hall—never designed for worship—forced us to squish together, sometimes knee to knee all summer long. The two full-sized candelabras from the sanctuary didn’t fit, so we downscaled to just two candles on a Sunday school table well-equipped for motion with wheels.
And we did move—even in the same space. Every few weeks the chairs were rearranged on purpose. Keep it new. Keep us mobile.
Jesus loved this. I know it. In His message to the Pharisees and teachers of the religious law in Mark 7:1-8, Jesus said, in essence, “Knock off your traditions.” He wasn’t just speaking to them; He has been saying this to us—to all of us.
Fresh. Varied. Unexpected. Break it up. Shake it up.
I preached differently in the Lecture Hall than in the sanctuary. Sometimes very differently. My people were close—literally very close—not just to each other, but to me. We became conversational and the responses and reactions during the sermons were intimate and enabled me, speaking by way of God with no script, to fine tune His message in a way that brought a proximity—and a heartfelt intimacy—to many, if not all.
If you’ve experienced an Easter Sunrise service outside you know what I mean by God being this close. Maybe your altar flowers can be September wildflowers and will appear just as pretty in a plastic pitcher as they would in some high-end vase. Or skip flowers altogether. Maybe your liturgical color, if you follow this, can take a rest, too. Maybe you won’t have an aisle but a jumble of lawn chairs and the holy organ can be a portable keyboard or sing A cappella without any music, just your memory. Maybe you can smell lunch from the nearby stove. Speaking of the stove, maybe the couple with the baby can scoot into the kitchen with their precious peapod for a few minutes.
Jesus is right about traditions. We sang better, laughed more and met God and each other easily, quickly and sincerely in what I’ll call a holy space that you can create too. Worship in your basement, pavilion or parking lot. Or find us. We rededicate our sanctuary with worship there this Sunday at 11 AM, but we’ll be back in our Lecture Hall again soon. I’m certain of this.