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Windows to the World

This week Sunday morning worship moves back into the sanctuary until next spring. We’ll still worship at 9:30, as we continue to share space with Abundant Life Faith Center; but, for the first time since I joined St Stephen’s, we’ll be in the sanctuary.

I imagine this as a homecoming of sorts — like returning to school-year routines after a summer at the beach, back to familiar customs in a well-loved space. In our beautiful sanctuary, you can’t help but sense the great cloud of witnesses who have shaped St. Stephen’s over the 96 years of this building’s history. Did you see St. Stephen’s Facebook and Instagram post from August 16? It turns out that even I have a familial connection to the sanctuary through the marble baptismal font! I’m looking forward to experiencing new-to-me patterns of worship in our sanctuary, surrounded both by memories of those who have gone before us and by those gorgeous stained-glass windows.

Yet, I’ve been grateful to begin my tenure at St. Stephen’s in the chapel. While it’s certainly hard to remain anonymous in the chapel (and who hasn’t sometimes gone to worship wanting only to commune with God and not to feel pressured to make conversation with fellow worshippers?) I appreciate the intimate and informal community that arises in the chapel. The feelings of welcome and joy at being reacquainted with each other after a week’s separation are palpable in our summer worship home. On many of these recent summer Sundays, guests have found their way to our chapel where they also have been greeted with genuine hospitality. I hope we won’t lose that sense of community as we move back into the sanctuary.

But what I’ll miss most about the chapel is the windows — windows all around, looking out in every direction! More than the natural light or views of the outdoor landscaping that brighten the chapel, what I love about those windows is the way they remind us that we are church in the middle of a small city, surrounded by people going about their business, raising their children, making a living. In previous generations, beautiful stained-glass windows were a way to draw people inside, depicting the biblical story of salvation through the artistry of colored glass. But clear windows revealing the world outside remind us that church is not an end in itself. We gather each Sunday to hear God’s word and to come together at the table of grace and mercy so that we can bear gifts of love and forgiveness back out into the world where we make our ways right alongside our neighbors. I also hope we won’t lose that perspective, as we move back into the sanctuary.

May God go with us as we find new ways to live into our mission: to love, to invite, to serve.



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