Thursday, March 26, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
‘God knowest our downsitting and our uprising’
People seem to have a fear of walking in front of the congregation. This naturally heightens the anxiety in churches that require persons to come down the center aisle in worship to make a profession of faith. In our church I put a notice in the bulletin that says people may stand as able. Several have told me that this permission to remain seated has been a great help. The psalmist says that God knowest our downsitting and our uprising, and all our thoughts afar off. That being the case, giving people leeway of movement seems to be a big help.
Getting in and out of church can be a challenge. One lady came to visit us and found the door locked. It was not really locked, but she was trying to pull the front door open. To enter our church, you have to push. I’ll bet all the big mega-churches have doors that push!
In the church I served in Chicago, the entrance to the pulpit and the door to the church nursery were located nearby. One Sunday just as the service was beginning, the pulpit door flew open and a woman pushed in one of those gigantic black baby carriages. She immediately realized she had gone in the wrong door and was lumbering out with her baby carriage in front of a thousand very amused onlookers. She was so embarrassed! I thought it was hilarious. Very few truly hilarious moments occur in Presbyterian churches. I felt very sorry for that poor woman.
The choir in our Chicago church sang from a very high loft that stood above and behind the chancel area where the altar stood and the ministers sat.
When the choir members were seated their heads were below a railing, so that their movements did not distract those who were watching the service. If the choir sang, they stood, so as to be visible.
On big Sundays when there were two services, the choir had to sit through the service twice, and to get through the exertion (and boredom) this required, the singers would tap the youngest member to slip out and dash across the street for orange juice and doughnuts. This was easily accomplished without the congregation’s notice, if the choir member would crawl on all fours to a little stairway that came up into this loft, very similar to a stairway that comes up to the choir in the Methodist Church here.
Easter Day arrived, and after performing the feat on Palm Sunday the previous week, the new choir member was confident that he could get the refreshments to the singers during the sermon at the first service. He would exit and re-enter and the goodies would be passed around, and it would all go on “behind the rail.” Nobody would be the wiser.
Needless to say, things did not go as planned. That door to the pulpit (which was also near the door to the choir) flew open once more, and here comes the rookie choir member crawling across the floor in front of a thousand worshipers, pushing a carton of plastic orange juice cups and holding a sack of doughnuts in his mouth! He did not realize what he had done until the laughter started. I fear he was so embarrassed he may have given up a promising singing career!
An Easter season never comes that I do not think of these happenings. God bless the church that puts up good signs to guide newcomers where they should go. “The Lord preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth and even from evermore” (Psalm 121:8).
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