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Changing Times

The Lutheran church is changing.

When I was a child, the baptismal font was hidden away. I remember being baptized in a small, dark, windowless room with only my family present. My children were baptized in front of the entire congregation during a regular church service. More and more churches are moving baptismal fonts to the entrance of church, so it becomes a visible reminder of our baptism in Christ as we enter the church and as we go into the world.

When I young, pastors went to a church straight out of seminary and sometimes stayed until they retired. It was comforting to know that through my childhood, my wedding and the birth of my two children that the same pastor was at my home congregation. We know however, that such longevity can create a complacency and/or restlessness in the congregation. When the inevitable pastoral change occurs it can be a real culture shock.

Now it seems that pastors change churches every 5-7 years. That seems disruptive, but it also keeps the congregation on their toes, having to learn to adjust to new leaders, to new ideas, to new practices.

When I was young, the pastors did everything during the service. The only things they didn't do were to light the candles and to pick up the communion cups. Not that that was a big deal, because we only had communion every 6 weeks. Today it feels odd to attend a worship service that doesn’t offer communion every week.

The churches I grew up in didn’t share the peace at all, or at most, only on the 5th Sunday. Now everybody does it, every week. The norm has changed.

In churches today, congregation members read the Bible verses and offer the prayers during worship. Congregation members assist with communion. That participation of congregation members reminds us that we are all a part of the worship service, not merely observers.

At St. Stephen’s we start monthly congregational council meetings with a discussion of a chapter from a book called Called to Serve. It's designed for councils, and encourages them to consider some of the challenges that come up through church leadership.

This month's discussion pointed out how St. Stephen's is a part of how the church is changing.

It was noted that two years ago the council was spending time talking about whether or not it was appropriate for people to bring their coffee cups into the sanctuary during the worship service.

On Monday we talked about the best actions to take to provide continuity and a feeling of security for New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church which we invited to share our space.

We talked about ways to make financial giving easier for our guests and our younger check-less attendees, and how that could also be used as we go off-site to activities such as the Cool Springs Farmer's Market and Brandywine Festival of the Arts.

We talked about being flexible as we share Social Hall space with Bootless Stageworks on Easter morning.

Two Sundays ago we had to have a special council meeting in one of the upstairs rooms because the pastor's office and the chapel and the gathering area were all being used.

Our church is changing. The church building is full and busy on Sunday mornings. We are more intent on being welcoming and less intent on being comfortable.

We are not a church in isolation. We are part of a larger church body which is reaching outside of its doors and into the wider community.

Thank God for that.

- Ann Warner

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