Back in Seminary I took a class on church development and was assigned a final class paper on church crisis. What we needed to do was discover a church crisis and write about the process of resolution. A few weeks before I began my class a local Catholic church in the town of Wheaton, where we lived, burned to the ground as a result of arson. How would this congregation overcome such a loss? With that question I began with a personal interview with the priest who was serving this parish. The first question I asked was, “How do you feel now that your place of worship has been destroyed?” He responded in a way that told me he had very little personal attachment to the physical worship space of the parish he lead. This was something I didn’t understand and was confused as to why this was his attitude.
Then I concluded that I had a different connection to the church I grew up in. The first 25 years of my life I have great church memories. On Sunday morning my brothers and I would fight to sit next to my Grandmother. This was because she always had Lifesavers.
I also knew that at some point I would be invited to come forward and hear a special story from the pastor. I was baptized, confirmed, married, and ordained in that sanctuary. I am certain that I would be quite emotional if the church ever fell to the horrors of fire. Later that week I called him and asked for an explanation of his attitude about the church building. He replied that in his four months of serving this parish he realized the sanctuary layout was a poor use of space and that the church office was very small. This explanation ultimately made me see that he had no history with the building.
What is the history we each have with our church building and ultimately the sanctuary? Are there baptisms, weddings, confirmations, and Christmas and Easter services fondly remembered? Our sanctuary is a special place that allows us to come and worship together. Many of us see it as a place where the Holy Spirit is allowed to freely travel into our hearts. Its imagery and layout speak to the mystery and sovereignty of God while giving those who enter a feeling of humility and praise.
We need to realize that there are some who feel a great connectedness and respect for our sanctuary. We also need to under-stand that it is a place that we come together to worship in the unity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What we do in our place of worship speaks to the faith we proclaim to the world and the respect we have for one another as a community.
We at St. Luke Union Church have a great space to gather and worship. Some gather early in order to center themselves, others catch up with friends. Our children feel comfortable and we tend not to be too possessive of our chosen seats. I look forward to coming to worship and enjoying the space we have been blessed with, knowing that God will meet us in any place that we gather in the name of Christ.
Pastor Andy Gifford