Why I come to St George’s. Sunday worship – coffee hour – out in the world, did you ever wonder what draws you to St George’s each Sunday, hopefully it is more than the coffee hour, but even if that is the case it is still a good start. Connections with others is what is key to keeping us coming back, where we are feed – mind, soul and body, so we are ready for the next week. Out in the world where we can do what Jesus calls us to do. Love each other as Jesus loves us. As we wind up the long season of the Sunday’s after Pentecost and enter Advent it is a time for us to reflect on how we carry the Good News of the Gospel out into the world when we leave St George’s on Sunday afternoon. (1 John 4:11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Worship Space. The vestry has begun discussing re-arranging our worship space, as they look to replace our current light fixtures which are a fire hazard. There are some practical reasons for re-arranging our worship space (getting folks closer to the Altar and the screens, improve the effectiveness of the sound system and get the choir out from behind the piano and organ). From the outside our church doesn’t look like the white clapboard church with a bell in the steeple of Christmas cards. Hallmark has done a good job of sticking that image in our minds. But if our church looks more like a Midas muffler shop on the outside, on the inside we’ve imitated a lay out we’d find in that Christmas card church or pretty much any Episcopal church build before the 1980’s. A center aisle, raised altar area (sanctuary) at one end separated from the pews (Nave) by an altar rail. Our current layout has everything but the altar rail. The Altar area with the Altar and platform, seating for ministers and choir at one end and the congregation at the other. While we don’t have an altar rail, for the most part we have a nice 10- 12 foot space between the two areas. This lay out fit our form of worship with the 1928 prayer book, reflecting a hierarchically ordered lay out – the ministers in the sanctuary and those ministered to in the nave. “In most Episcopal churches, the altar is clearly the focal point…the location of the altar reflects changing viewpoints on worship. A generation ago, almost all altars were against the far wall, and somewhat distant from worshipers: today they are often much closer to where people sit. The older pattern reflects an understanding of God as a Creator beyond human comprehension; the newer pattern reflects an understanding of God as one who draws near to us in love. In a world where we often feel dominated by distant and hostile forces, the knowledge that God comes near to us in love seems important” from Welcome to Sunday, C.L.Webber. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer, noted that the ministers of the church were first lay persons, and the services (Liturgies) are reflective of this more active role of the laity in the life and worship of the church. However, most of our churches haven’t reflected this change in how the worship space is laid out. Holding our 9 a.m. service in the parish hall reflects this merging of what we are about in our liturgy and the physical layout of our worship space.
However at our 10:30 service our Rite II liturgy is much more inclusive than that of the 1928 BCP, but we are conducting the service in the old style layout with two distinct areas. Notice I said old rather than traditional. The earliest churches didn’t have separate areas for ministers and congregation, rather a single space around an altar. So as the vestry begins its discussions I would ask you to pray for them and to think about how our worship space is laid out? What does the division of space say about us, who has access to which parts and why? Are there divisions between clergy/ministers and laity, what is the theological implication of such divisions? “There is no change without anxiety. Given the lack of change in our liturgical places [church layout] over the last hundreds of years, a move towards a [different]…worship space is bound to create anxiety” As We Gather to Pray edited by M. L. Haskel & C. L. Morris.
All I want for Christmas. Yes I know this is the November newsletter, but Advent starts the last Sunday of November, so like Home Depot and Macy’s I’m start my Christmas message early. Given the average age of our congregation, I would hazard a guess that many of us are at that stage in our lives where when asked by family “what do you want for Christmas?” the answer is nothing, we already have what we need and any “wants” are more the stuff of day dreams than something that if we got it we’d really want. So if we don’t need anything how can we answer that question. Well ERD (Episcopal Relief & Development) has an answer, in the form of a Gifts for Life Advent Calendar program. Instead of getting something you’d put on a shelf in the closet, or worse cookies and candies which would then put you in the “need” of new cloths, ask folks to donate to ERD through St George’s. Or if you have folks who don’t need anything, donate in their name. If we reach donations of $750, ERD would be able to provide a Christmas Gift Package including: 1 Micro-credit Loan for women; 3 goats; Clean Water for 3 people; 3 care packages for Moms and newborns; and 100 trees. Jesus asks Peter three times “do you love Me…?” to which Peter replies “Yes” each time. Jesus then tells him and us – Feed my Lambs…Tend My sheep…Feed my Sheep. (John 21:15-17). Like, Peter if we love Jesus then we are to tend and feed his sheep.