“Lord Prepare me to be a Sanctuary. Pure and Holy, Tried and True…”
Every once in a while, I get the urge to peep through the windows outside of Merriman chapel at what used to be the sanctuary of United Congregational Church. I marvel at the beautiful stained - glass windows and imagine what it would be like to preach from the ornate chancel. I admire the woodwork and imagine what it must have been like to attend Christmas Eve service by candle light there in the days before electricity was common... I think about how easy it would have been to find solace there on the days when the wars of our nation and civil unrest and all sorts of other societal ills were outside of the walls. I envision what it must have been like when the pews were filled with families of all sorts dressed in their Sunday best. In the time before baseball practices and basketball games and travel soccer took place on Sunday mornings. The gallery is beautiful, but it doesn’t feel like home to me.
I don’t need to tell you that the world is different now. And no one knows better than the people of United that the ornate altar and glass art no longer represent who we are. You all know that, although the gallery is beautiful, it is the people who make the church, not the other way around. Merriman chapel fits us perfectly. It is homey in a way that the big gallery space isn’t. We are comfortable there. It is where we gather each week in community. Where I have been privileged now to have celebrated with you a year’s worth of Sunday worship services. We have held the special services of Advent and Christmas and Lent and Holy Week and Easter and Pentecost together in the chapel. We have shared communion there and rejoiced in the slow but steady emergence of our congregation from the restrictions of Covid – first gathering, then leaving off masks, then, at last, sharing in coffee hour together again.
Merriman chapel is relaxed and homey and secure. I think that’s why we forget sometimes that it is also a place for reverence. A place to marvel in awe of the God that we worship. A place to let the music and mystery of worship wash over us. I invite you this Sunday to open your eyes and ears to the possibilities that worship can bring. To still yourself and listen to every note of the prelude, to let your spirit rise with the hymns, to pray earnestly with the congregation and to lift your prayers in the times of contemplation, to sing the benediction from beginning to end. I invite you to take a break from the busy-ness of getting ready for the next thing whatever it may be and just be in worship. Be among the people of God and let everything else wait for an hour. It will be there when you are finished. And maybe the burdens of the week will feel a little lighter.With love,