Denver, Colorado. July 8, 2012
I remember the first time Richard took me to see Trinity, the downtown ‘tall steeple’, Methodist church. Maybe by that introduction my expectations were built too high. Maybe because it was a weekday and we basically snuck in and stole moments in the back corner to see it. Maybe it was because the sanctuary was empty. Whatever it was somehow the church didn’t meet what I thought it should be and I remember thinking “This is it? This is our mother-ship church?” I wasn’t too awfully impressed.
Empty churches can do that to you. Leave you wanting for something more, something bigger, better.
Today, we worshipped there and as we sat in the pew I started to feel different about this ‘mother-ship’ church. The architecture, woodwork, stained glass windows, the deep red velvet and cushions are beautiful, they create a warm and traditional feel that I appreciate, something which makes it feel like being wrapped in a quilt on a cold rainy day. As the people come in and fill the pews around us, it starts to feel more like a church community, there is a sense of friendship as people welcome and visit with each others.
During the service I think of my sister, Cindy as we responded in the Affirmation of Faith: “I believe in God, who places joy in our souls, dancing in our toes and songs in our hearts…. I believe in Jesus, who turned water into wine, partied with outcasts and sinners, and touched the broken so they could leap and dance….” It makes me smile to think of Jesus partying and dancing.
Was I completely at home here? Oh, if it were only so easy to just arrive at ‘home’ and say “God? I’m home!” and be greeted with hugs and a meatloaf dinner. If it were only so easy.
It’s the little things that can stunt our faith’s journey joi de vivre. Ok, so here’s where I let pet peeves get in the way of joy: #1. Woo-boy! That Lectern looks like something from a Baroque cathedral; whose design idea was that? #2. When the offering plates were being lifted up in prayer and give to God’s glory, I noticed that the pipes from the organ were predominate and I thought “great, we just gave our offering to the music department.” (Yes, I know I’m being flippant.) But it made we wonder about my reaction and I started to look for the symbols that represent Christianity.
Where is the cross? Oh, there it is, rather small against the backdrop of the organ pipes. Where is the Bible? Oh, there it is, off to the side. At least there’s a candle there to draw attention and is a nice metaphor. Where are the stories of Jesus, of the Bible, of our faith? I can’t find them, and I miss this visual comfort and familiarity, something solid which I can see and say, “Ah, there’s my faith; that’s what I know; that’s what we have in common.”
As I try to come to grips with and release this disappointment (so like me to want to hold on and let go at the same time), the words of Reverend Miriam Slejko become clearer and I realize that this isn’t just their Urban Ministry Sunday, this is probably who they are as a church. The Trinity church is a downtown building, and the people of this church serve those in need in this downtown community.
Then it dawns on me…I look around me. Although the stories are missing in the visual arts, the stories are very much present in the people around me. They are the art and stories of Jesus by the lives they lead.