As I’m sure you know by now, this Sunday, our church family ‘moves back in’ to the Sanctuary after several months away! We celebrate that the repair work has ended, and that we can return to this beloved space which bears decades of witness to God’s work of Love within First on Fifth.
I will say, I’m feeling a twinge wistful about leaving the cozy cocoon of Kelly Auditorium though, and I don’t think I’m the only one! Throughout these 14 weeks of our displacement, not a week has gone by that at least one of you remarks to me or one of our pastors about how much you’ve enjoyed our time in Kelly. You’ve appreciated the intimacy we’ve shared. You’ve liked getting to know new people outside of the comfort of your regular pew. You’ve enjoyed the flexibility to try new movements in worship — things like storytelling and interviews, student-led worship and body prayer, silence and a different kind of sacred space. You’ve asked me, searingly, ‘would we have done [this or that element of worship] in the Sanctuary?’ You’ve remarked how easily it is to see everyone from right up close.
What once felt like an interruption became for me an invitation. It has been an invitation for all that we’ve experienced together — deeper connection, renewed sight, new relationships, creative flexibility, risk and possibility. An invitation to consider again the important questions of a shared Christian experience: what makes worship, worship? How does our worship space shape the character and nature of our worship? How does space inadvertently limit or liberate? What longings do we carry before God as we bring full selves into sacred communal worship?
I’ll tell you this — I’m returning to the Sanctuary with a robust curiosity about worship and a personal commitment to bring all those questions and experiences and invitations from Kelly Auditorium back with me into the heart of our church’s home. I’m looking at the Sanctuary with new lenses, wondering in what ways this soaring space will house new intimacy, connection, creativity, grace. I’m imagining how we continue to find real sanctuary in our Sanctuary — relying on this space to invite refuge, rest, and a holy encounter with the living God. I expect to delight in watching you all settle back in, returning as did the shepherds ‘home by another way.’
For if we were to settle back in just as we left…
… If we went straight back to our pews without inviting a new friend to join us, or without considering a new spot to plant
… If we close up the vulnerability and openness to new movements of the Spirit
… If we failed to bring as individuals our full selves to the worship of God in beloved community
… If we skipped from June’s interruption to September’s restoration without considering the holy invitation we found in between, we would miss the grace of our return, renewal, and transformation that has found us along the way!
From the worship that is our very lives, I rejoice in welcoming you to the worship of the living God!
Together in the work of Love,