Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sanctuary

I grew up in the Presbyterian church that my mother attended as a child and where she later married my father.  My sisters and I were baptized and confirmed there.  Mark and I were married there as I had always dreamed.  When we visit my hometown, the sight of the tall, stone, gray building lets me know I’m home. 

I married a lapse Catholic (his words) and I wanted to find a church home that would be comfortable for both of us.  We joined a Lutheran Church and it worked for our growing family.  Alexander and Sophie were baptized there.  We moved and joined another Lutheran church that was just as welcoming and we remain friends with our pastor to this day. 

Our family relocated here 2.5 years ago.  This time when we moved, we knew that this new place would be our home for many years.  We could finally settle in, yet somehow finding a new church community wasn’t a priority.  It began weighing on my mind and last Sunday I started church shopping.  Despite the fact that we had been going to a Lutheran church, I felt drawn to my roots.  A sprawling Presbyterian church not far from our home had caught my eye.  I was taken by the stone buildings which are typical of old churches in the area.  Leaving my family at home I attended the late service.

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The magnificence of the architecture inside stunned me.  As the services began I couldn’t help but look around in awe as the morning light shone through the stained glass.  We sang Gloria Patri and I realized how much I missed the traditions of my denomination.   I can’t tell you what the sermon was about, but what did stand out for me was the sound of the choir who sang in the balcony behind the congregation adding a depth and beauty to the hymns.  After the service, I was collecting information for visitors when I met the membership staff member.  She spent a better part of an hour telling me about the history of the church as we toured its grounds and I knew I had found our new church home.

*kids building

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This morning my family arrived early at our new church, and I was beside myself with excitement to show them around.  Our first stop was the children’s building for infants through 5th graders.  Not only is Helena’s classroom for Sunday school, but they also have a preschool there during the week as well.  We have applied and are hoping to send her there next year as we have not been impressed with her current school.

*3 year olds classroom & weekday preschool

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*2nd grade

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*hallways

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*kindergarten

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Today was an important day for the congregation as we welcomed our new head pastor for her first service with us.  After the service my family toured the rest of the grounds.  The original church, now reconfigured and called the Chapel, still has its original Tiffany stained glass windows.  The Chapel is much smaller than the new sanctuary but is similar to the size of a regular church.  They hold the early services there as well as smaller weddings and funerals. 

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*Inside the smaller Chapel

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*original Tiffany stained glass

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In the Congregational Hall we gather after services for coffee and treats and on the first Tuesday of each month a massive labyrinth mat is laid on the floor for prayerful walking. The church hosts many adult classes, support groups, and activities here.  The youth begin their Sunday classes in the gym which is attached to the hall.  Week day exercise classes like dance fit, Tai Chi, and yoga are offered there as well as a basketball program for kids with special needs. 

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My family has never been a part of such a large congregation (membership is 2,600), but somehow they make it feel welcoming and warm.  I recognized people from last week and a few remembered me and stopped to meet my family.  Alexander says he likes it more than regular school and the girls are excited to belong there.  I see my family here for many years learning, growing, making new friends and I am thankful to have been lead there.

*new church sanctuary

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*from the left balcony

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*back of sanctuary, choir and organ balcony

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Although this is a video, I shot it only for the sound of the choir sending us on our way after services.  What a beautiful way to fill us up for the week to come.

5 comments:

Gillian Marchenko said...

What a gorgeous place. So happy for you!

JRS said...

Thank you Gillian. I am too.
---Jen

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to come out to see you so we can go!
love,
the prairie

RK said...

Hey girl... I was happy to see u in my list this morning... Granted, I haven't even looked at my readers in weeks, so sorry for being late! What a beautiful place! I'm so happy you've had a good experience and that the kids like it. Sounds like a great fit. :) RK

Angel watson said...
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