It’s been a couple weeks since we visited our local Lutheran Church, but right after I left for a business trip and then had visitors for my birthday… so we’ve had a couple Sundays off since this visit. I still want to chronicle it, though.
I don’t know where my lofty ideas of Lutherans came from.. It’s a pretty recent development that I think started when I found out they are cool with women pastors. I don’t think they were the first denomination to allow women to be pastors, but they are the first one that I found out about when that became an important aspect of my faith, so I think I latched on. Plus, Chad and I have both talked a bit about how we might be interested in a more liturgical or traditional church, something that doesn’t feel too close to our last church.
So I was excited about visiting the Lutheran Church around the corner from us. They have a woman pastor and I was anxious to meet her and hear her preach. Going in, I had high expectations.
First of all, let me say that one of my biggest problems with this whole “church shopping” deal is that a lot of feelings about each church are circumstantial. For some reason, this Sunday, I felt more uneasy than previous ones about visiting a new church, about walking in, being a stranger, meeting people… I felt more nervous and less sure. And who knows why? Maybe I was just having a nervous day. I know my mood can affect my impressions and attitude.
We entered the small church and sat down in a pew. Like in many traditional churches, we walked almost straight into the sanctuary. There was no reception area, except a small foyer with a guest book and a couple resources. There was no “information desk,” no coffee stations, not even groups of people gathered in small groups talking, so we just entered and sat down. One friendly woman got up, greeted us, and went to get us the order of service. I’m not saying I need a warm welcome at the door. I’m not great with chit-chat anyway, so in some ways, I want to just come in and sit down instead of awkwardly loitering around the lobby for a couple minutes. But I do want to feel welcomed too.
As I said, there’s a lot that is circumstantial about “church shopping.” There’s been a couple times so far in our church visits that I feel like we just happened to chose irregular Sundays, because they are doing baptisms, or the sound equipment is broken, or they have a special guest worship leader. All of this is fine, and fun in some ways to see something special happen, but it also doesn’t give you a feel for the normal routine of the church. And when you know some churches are only going to get one chance, you want to get a true feel for what’s it’s like. At the Lutheran Church, it was another irregular Sunday, because as soon as I scanned the order of service, I realized their pastor was away. Yup. Meeting her was what I was probably most excited about, but this Sunday, the deacon would be delivering the sermon. Okay. Fine.
It really is fine, because we can always go back and give this church another visit. And I think we might need to because I’m not sure I was in the best spirits that day for a visit. And the congregation seemed like a great bunch of people. They may not have greeted us at the door, but they welcomed us at the end and gave us information and encouraged us to leave our names for the pastor, who would be so upset she missed us. They also invited us downstairs for coffee, but I wasn’t up for it.
This was probably the most traditional or liturgical service we’ve been to so far, and there were things that I liked about that and things that made me feel a little lost because it’s not what I’m used to. It felt more formal to follow an order of service with prescribed readings and recitations, and in some ways I feel like that doesn’t match the rest of my life, where I don’t practice much order, but rather take each situation as it comes. But maybe a little more order in my life would be good.
We have one more church visit before we leave for vacation. Since we don’t speak Norwegian, I doubt we’ll go to church while we’re away, but maybe Chad and I can do something else instead together. We will be focusing on the theme of “peace” while we’re in Norway, so if you have suggestions for how we can work that into our Sunday mornings, I’d love to hear your ideas.