Sunday, August 10, 2008

Things Fall Apart: A Foray into Lutherland

This morning CP, NS and I attended a Lutheran church service. It took place in a new multipurpose building as the historic, gray stone church is undergoing renovations. At the door the ushers handed us a thickish booklet containing the complete liturgy for this, the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (news to me).

Before leaving the house, as he was dressing NS in a pink checked jumper, CP had asked, "Aren't there any underpants with this?" No, it was just the jumper. "But what's going to keep the diaper on?" he worried. I dismissed the thought. Who needs matching baby underpants?

Minutes after we sat down in the back row of the church, and NS had been wriggling in CP's arms, he handed her to me. Lifting her onto my lap, I was horrified to see her disposable diaper (which are standard for outings such as church) slipping down around her knees. Closer inspection revealed that not one, but both sides were undone, and soon the whole thing was falling to her ankles. I whispered an alert to CP; we both tried desperately to suppress the giggles while I held NS and her various accessories together and headed out in search of a diaper changing spot. Luckily, there was a pair of pink pants in the diaper bag that I just pulled on under the jumper, and she didn't fall apart the rest of the morning.

Further reflections on the visit:

Numerous people, including both ministers, went out of their way to welcome us, scoring an A+ for friendliness. One of the ushers came up afterward and "mugged" us--handing CP a mug with the church logo, stuffed with cocoa mix, a pen, and literature about the congregation.

Communion elements were deliciously different from what I'm used to: a sip of sweet wine and a cube of homemade shortbread. NS even received a blessing on her head. A+.

The music left much to be desired. It was strictly piano and unison voices (by turns, the congregation, the cantor, and the choir). The music itself was OK; there were a number of hymn tunes and/or texts that were familiar. Some pieces were written specifically for the liturgy, and these the congregation seemed to stumble over as much as I did. C-.

The white-robed minister's sermon came from the gospel story of Peter walking on water. "Instead of asking the Lord to take away the storm, or get me out of here," he suggested, "Why not ask for the ability to walk on the water--to overcome it?" A.

An unfamiliar but refreshing aspect of Lutheran worship is having every prayer, song, change of posture, scripture, and word (except the homily) outlined in writing. The down side is that you have to be quite literate in order to follow along (read music, read the footnotes explaining that bold type is for the congregation to read and a little cross means stand up). The positive side is that this style encourages participation in worship (as opposed to spectatorship, which is fairly widespread in many churches). If you do choose to participate, you end up seeing, hearing, speaking and singing a lot of scripture. A.

If this church were among only a handful of options in a small town, I would probably consider becoming a regular. Under the current circumstances, I'll probably have plenty of new church visits to write about before long.

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