Whenever someone visits us and we’re showing them around, but they happen to be driving, I often forget that they won’t know where they’re going unless I direct them! I know the place, so why wouldn’t they? Seeing the world through the eyes of others doesn’t always come naturally.
About a week ago, while I was writing my sermon, a couple from England stopped into the church office asking if they could get a look inside our sanctuary. I happily opened the door for them and I watched as they marveled at a building I see practically every day. What made this special was that I was experiencing the history and beauty of our church through their eyes, seeing it anew, with fresh eyes.
They asked what kind of church we are. I explained that our forebears were the earliest settlers from England, the pilgrims who set sail for the New World. I further explained that these were the “nonconformists” from their native England who had broken off from the mother church – the Church of England (the Anglican Church).
Looking at the neo-classical simplicity of our sanctuary, I explained that its architecture makes an overt theological statement. Its clean lines reflect the early settlers’ insistence on faith and reason, including the disciplines of the mind. Furthermore, the sanctuary’s relatively low ceiling was meant to convey a very human scale, as opposed to the tall ceilings of “high church” structures which draw the worshipper up to God but dwarf the human (or so the thinking went).
I also pointed out the pulpit which is situated in the center of the chancel (rather than the Lord’s Table). This is in keeping with the early Congregationalist’s insistence on the “centrality of the Word.” The sermon, the preached Word, and not the Eucharist, was understood to be the high point of the service.
In the end, the couple left utterly entranced by the beauty, simplicity, and historical significance of our “frontier” church. Perhaps more surprisingly, so did I.
During this season of the harvest, a time of giving thanks for seeds planted long ago, yet only now bearing rich and abundant fruit, our hearts are properly drawn to the infinite ways we have been blessed, not only by God and the ongoing gift of God’s Word, but by the hard work and dedication of our forebears who labored faithfully in this little corner of God’s vast vineyard.
Thanksgiving is a time to see our lives with fresh, renewed, and renewing eyes, humbled by the often forgotten richness of God’s abundance and the blessings of Christ’s salvific love, of which we are but recipients.
Grace and peace,
Thomas C. Leinbach, Pastor