Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sacred space…

I spent Wednesday morning redesigning our worship space. I’m hoping it looks good! It’ll certainly look different. I’ve changed our sanctuary design before, but never so drastically.

Let me explain. You’ll recall that we’re anticipating a remodel and new construction this summer. Some of the rooms whose walls will be demolished or carpet replaced host child care center kids. Specifically, infants in cribs and toddlers just learning to wobble on their own two feet. Those precious little ones need somewhere to go when the work gets going!

Originally, we hoped to keep them in place while we built new classrooms, then move them into those spaces while we renovated old spaces. But plans, as a rule, change, and ours have too. Particularly, due to conversations with the city and delays in funding, we’ve had to flip-flop so the remodel happens before new rooms are built.

That means the babies and wobblers needed a plan B. So with Board approval, we offered use of our sanctuary as temporary classroom space. The littlest ones will go in the Fellowship Hall, older ones in our worship space. Thankfully, our church’s builders designed an adaptable sanctuary, such that our chairs, instruments and most everything else can move as the needs of our congregation evolve.

And evolve they’re doing, amen?! If you’ve been around for some time, though, you know another thing is true: our chairs, however lovely, are fragile. Specifically, the front legs have a tendency to break when moved around a lot, and the spacers that hold our hymnals have frequently required mending. Hence a question I spoke with folk about after church on Father’s Day: How can we both accommodate the kids’ needs during construction while not ruining our chairs along the way?

You see, the move had already begun as of that Sunday. State child care licensors needed to see the center set up ASAP, to approve it or recommend changes. Thus, we opened our sanctuary for kids on the 15th. They got approval (wahoo!), then tore down for worship on the 21st, meaning I spent Saturday afternoon moving chairs and getting things prepped. I didn’t relish the thought of exerting such energy weekly, particularly if it meant hurting our worship furniture. But if needed, we’ll do it.

To which, someone suggested an interesting idea: What if we avoided this weekly set-up-and-tear-down game, by simply allowing the center to keep their stuff in place over the weekends, while we worked around it? In other words, they challenged me to reimagine a more compact worship space that didn’t use the entire sanctuary. Several chairs would need removing. Worshippers would be closer together than typical. The orientation of table and pulpit would shift. But the benefit would be that we’d protect our stuff and energy, while giving the center a break from their weekly rearranging work. That’ll reserve energy for building together, such that come Fall, we’ll never have to play that set-up-and-tear-down game again!

I’ll be honest. I was skeptical about that suggestion, but I could imagine how, if it worked, it could be good for everyone. So I took a stab at figuring something out, which we’ll worship in together soon enough. We’ll then see whether it’s cozy or cramped, intimate or just too hot for summer! I don’t know if we’ll think the sanctuary’s (temporary!) multipurpose look will seem cluttered and ugly, or a welcome statement of our burgeoning partnership and generous hospitality.

I will say that I enjoy the symbolism of our people being made to sit closer together. After all, for this project to work, it’ll take all of us, together, working and dreaming as one. Just like we did when the sacred spaces we worshipped in during our decade without a building in the 80s were a YMCA, hotel ballroom, Plymouth Playhouse. In other words, while this set up will feel new to those of us who’ve never known Plymouth Creek without this sanctuary, it won’t be unprecedented. Just a group of Christians figuring out the best way they can to honor God, and follow Christ’s lead.

That, I believe, is worth changing things up for!

Grace and Peace,
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