Church name/type: Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)
Format summary: I will fill this in later…I can be lazy once in a while, I’m allowed.
Overall Impression: wonderful
To start with I want to make note that although this denomination has Evangelical in the name it doesn’t feel very “Evangelical”. Let me explain, in case you didn’t get that. In my mind, if someone told me a group or person was Evangelical Christian, I’d immediately have an idea about them. They shout loudly during sermons, they expect you to say “amen” after every sentence, they are pushy, they want you to be ‘saved’, they think a very specific list of things will get you out of hell and outside that list you are screwed.
Well this church is nothing like that. ELCA will ordain gay ministers and sanction gay marriage- something a close friend assures me quotational “Evangelicals” would never do. For Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, evangelizing means spreading the good news. The good news in this church seems to be welcome, come one in, we like you as you are.
Now that the nomenclature is out of the way, I’ll tell you all the stuff I liked about this church. I arrived rather early and was the first in the sanctuary. A man greeted me and asked how I had found the church, which of course prompted me to mention my project. He reacted positively and asked if it was a school project. (This is a really common question because I look young) I told him it was a personal project and he smiled and welcomed me. Next the pastor greeted me, then, with no knowledge of me besides my name, he invited me to take communion during the worship. And he said there’d be choice of either wine or juice. I’ve never taken communion where there was a choice. Communion itself was also exciting in that I got to again kneel at a rail and get the wafer right on my tongue. How do pastors do that without ever missing?
Every part of service gave me reasons to feel nice about this church. The service had formal parts reminiscent of a Catholic Church, but was so relaxed you didn’t feel pressure to get it all right. The bulletin was easy to follow with most of the songs and even the singsong chanted words in musical notation. Behind me was a younger woman taking care of an older woman in a wheelchair. In front of me was a woman who didn’t seem to realize greeting time was over, explaining to her seat mates that peace is really two fingers together instead of apart like a V. (I think she may have been mentally disabled but highly functional.) The two women sitting with her just said, “Ok sit down now.” No one acted like it was a problem or unusual. Directly in front of me was a woman with two kids. She apologized to me before they’d even done anything, but not in an exasperated way. Just like, shrug smile- they’re kids, they wiggle! I like kids and they were fine. In one of the sections where the congregation said prayer together, we prayed that those taking care of animals continue to have the sense if responsibility in that. We prayed for those who are homeless, and were told how to donate to a shelter supported by the church. The back page of the bulletin was an extensive list of anything you might want to know as a visitor: bathrooms, gluten issues, kids area, inclusion of all in taking communion. Printed material means a lot to me and can often be a reflection if how much attention a church is willing to give those walking through its doors. Holy Spirit Lutheran did a superb job on both accounts.
After service I dawdled a bit as usual to see if new people would greet me. My first greeter came back to let me know about food in the room down the hall. Once there I also had a woman greet me and strike up a similar conversation, what brought me here, where did I live? She thought the pastor and visiting bishop might like to hear about my project so I also got to talk with them. Yeah, on top of all the other cool stuff, I got to meet a bishop. This is one of those weeks where my project makes me so happy. This church has the best vibe and I think I’ve found another denomination to love.
Notes to self: Learn more about wine, juice and how the cup is interpreted by the various denominations.