Well. The Presbyterians know how to put on a service, I can tell you. Ministers everywhere in black robes reminiscent of advanced-degree graduations (no doubt there’s a historical reason for that), singing every other whipstitch, you name it, it was sharp.
The church I went to is located on the edge of downtown, and they make a lot of the fact that they’re an urban church. But this place was big on tradition. The church has been there since 1857 (they’re commemorating their 150th anniversary this year) and much was made in this service of the history of the church, especially a former pastor who had led the church from 1941 to 1965.
That made it an unfortunate first service for me. Not that I don’t care about history or tradition, but I didn’t get my usual dose of Thoughts to Ponder because it wasn’t exactly that kind of sermon. Still, part of the reading was from Luke, the story where the devil tempts Jesus and Jesus uses the scriptures to smack him down. That’s always a good passage for someone who is struggling to do the right thing even though the wrong thing has a great deal more appeal.
The church is huge, taking up most of a city block, and inside the sanctuary is a wide-open room in the round with a second-floor gallery. The dark wood, huge straight-backed chairs for the clergy and stained-glass windows all reminded me of an Episcopalian church I went to once. It had a nice blend of the ornate and the formal with the human and accessible, of which I’ve usually found one half or the other missing in the churches I’ve been to. The friend who suggested this church said that it has offered her opportunities to create a sense of smaller community within the larger community of the whole church.
In an odd coincidence, some friends of mine went to a different Presbyterian church today, and I’m hoping to get their take on it to add to this. More on this later.