Church name/type: St Peter’s Church, Episcopal Church USA
Pastor: Reverend Paul Hartt
Style of worship: Formal traditional style utilizing forms from a prayer book and hymn book
Overall Impression: surprising!
The first few noticeables at this church didn’t seem promising. It was rather dark and the organ was playing grumpy sounding music. My opinion went up as the service went forward, so I think I can explain these first two items easily enough: 1) the space seems mainly lit by sunlight 2) it’s lent, and the music is often slow and dreary during lent.
Anyways, I noticed some other things as the service went on. The floor is an interesting mosaic of tiles along the main and side aisles. The front of the church is this kinda multifaceted dome. The children’s time was at the very beginning of the service and I heard a story I don’t remember hearing before. It was about Joshua and the twelve stones. Just before they get to enter the promised land, the Israelites have to cross the Jordan which is parted for them like the Red Sea was. Once they are crossed, Joshua has them gather twelve stones (I guess from the river bed) and set them up nearby. Then Joshua says, “When your kids ask why we are keeping twelve rocks around, tell them they help us remember how God saved us from bondage in Egypt and led us to the promised land.” So that was really cool. I also liked the verses used for the sermon: the story of the prodigal son. The pastor talked about how we might identify with any of five characters in this story- yes five. His descriptions were so detailed I actually found myself daydreaming about them. And yes, that’s a compliment. There are so many ways this story relates to life. Especially if you think beyond the story into the befores and afters.
A son leaving home and living dangerously only to return; there are lots of ways this could play out. We can think about what his journey was like and where he went. Were there people he hurt along the way? Maybe it is up to him to reach out to those people and make amends.
The other son in the story is shocked and angered at the fuss dad makes over wayward son. Have we ever been close to someone who is seemingly rewarded for one tiny good following a string of evils? How can we learn to accept this and be gracious to our brother?
The dad is willing to accept his son back into his life even though he spent through half their money. Can we do the same for another who we love?
There are also servants in this guy’s household who witness the event from the edges. How does it touch us to see this from the outside? Can we learn from what us going on here? Are we able to join in the father’s excitement or are we going to become upset as the other son did?
There is a fifth character element in the unknown of what the son did on his journey while he was off living selfishly. Perhaps he hurt many people. I can think of examples of this from ex-girlfriends to pals he stuck with the bill at the tavern. If we are this fifth person how do we respond? Can we find it in ourselves to forgive him who wronged us? Can we find ways to move on with our lives?
After the service was all done I wandered to the back of the church to say hello to this pastor. So, remember how I’m always saying that the best welcome statement is not one of, “I hope you come back!” (pressure) but instead, “I’m glad you came!” ? Well when I shook his hand he said, “I’m so glad you came today!” In my brain I said “AWESOME!” to this perfect greeting and I smiled. I asked about snacks because I couldn’t remember if we were told ‘fellowship’ or ‘coffee’ was occurring after service and I didn’t want to sound weird. I guess ‘snacks’ sounds a little weird too. But no matter, because immediately after he directed me to the door to the gathering space and woman named Carly came up to me and offered to walk me there. She was nice and chatty and dressed snappy. She reminds me of my awesome chatty aunts. We talked easily about a bunch of things and she introduced me to a number of other church members. We were among the last to leave. I even got to give out my website cards.
Overall this turned out to be a pretty nice Sunday. I like this place- that is I like the people and the atmosphere. Carly basically invited me back to any holiday or Sunday imaginable, so maybe I’ll return for a week at some point.
The choir: Again with the strong choral presence! The choir was great and they comprised a decent chunk of the congregation. Is this a thing with downtown or pipe organs or what?