This fall the Worship SLG has been thinking about how the furnishings and architecture of our sanctuary embody our convictions and values about worship. We’ve learned that our sanctuary has looked about the same since the 1960’s when it was renovated as we moved back into this building. And that the 1960’s renovation was styled, not exactly, but in spirit, on how the 1837 sanctuary was organized and decorated in the late 1800’s (for similarities and differences, you can check out the drawing among the historical items on the wall at the west end of the lower narthex.)
We’ve been thinking about what the current state of our sanctuary communicates about how and what we value regarding worshiping together. We’re thinking that with rows of fastened down pews all the way from the back wall to the piano, all facing forward we have little choice but to have clergy-centered, chancel-focused, listen-to-the-preacher-talk style of worship (not that we don’t appreciate listening to our pastor!).
We have some other ideas about how the sanctuary could better reflect our contemporary theological understandings and commitments and offer the space needs of our current liturgical practice.
But nothing drastic or permanent is going to happen right away. Or without full disclosure and the involvement of the whole community. Bob Schneider, our Moderator, has a mantra that speaks to a ‘process commitment’ that works well in church: “No surprises!”
We have introduced this conversation with leaders and are now widening it to include the entire congregation. Ww will organize face to face time to talk more deeply with one another.
Besides this introductory explanation and undertaking, the Worship SLG will begin this important discussion by leading a conversation circle at the December Elders meeting. It has also scheduled two adult forums in January. It will share its bigger ideas and suggestions before then. And everyone will be invited for a time of listening and sharing about worship at Old First. We will make sure everyone has adequate information and part in the discussion before any permanent decisions are made.
Then all of a sudden, it was Advent!
The Advent wreath is front and center; there will be extra musicians and instruments in worship; the Sunday School is presenting a program on Dec. 18; and this year we will have new seven foot Christmas trees for the front of the sanctuary to replace the small trees that had seen better days.
To make room for all this — and as a little experiment — our Worship SLG has decided to try something that Julie’s did for our production of “Godspell..” We’re going to temporarily remove “the sideways pews” on both sides at the front of the sanctuary, facing the chancel (the area with the pulpit) from the east and the west.
There will be no change to the pews facing the chancel from the north, where the congregation sits. The pews we are talking about are never used, tend to collect junk, and simply unbolt from the floor. (They will leave no tripping hazard or break in the carpet, and can be put back.) We are only doing this for Advent and Christmas. We plan to store the pews in the balcony area until January. We hope by then we will have initiated a broader conversation about our worship needs and space.
We have asked Michael to check with the Historical Commission, and he has obtained in writing an explanation that the interior of our sanctuary is not under the purview of the Historical Commission. We do not believe that this change will disturb its historical character.
We have communicated this plan of temporarily removing the pews already to the Elders and the Administration Standing Leadership Group, and to the the broader general leaders group.
Alice Reyes, Janice Smith, Julie Steiner, Bruce Clark and Michael will be supervising the temporary moving of the pews. Obviously, we’ll need to draft some help for the heavy lifting. We hope to get this done as part of our preparing the sanctuary with decorations for the Christmas season.
Your responses, questions, suggestions and concerns are welcome! Please get them to me, or if you are not sure how to contact me, get them to Mindy in the office and she will forward them to me for consideration and/or response by the Worship SLG.
Worship Standing Leadership Group