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A Sunday Full of Song

The weekend may have had less hours, but it had more church than usual for me.

I was in the Twin Cities after working a few days on Luther’s campus last week. Saturday night I made a research visit to a congregation for the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project. That’s about all I can say about that.

Sunday, however, was a day full of worship in great variety. All of it included an abundance of music and song.

Sunday morning I attended The Sanctuary. They identify themselves as “a reconciling movement” and they are growing. I joined them for worship in a middle school auditorium along with a large gathering of folks. Worshipers looked and sounded to me to be a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-age congregation and members. I went with a friend and we sat on the second row. I was impressed by the music, spirit and liturgical dancing (some choreographed and some led by the Spirit in the moment). It was quite beautiful and thoughtful and passionate. The congregation had spent a week visiting with a potential new pastor. He preached from the gospel of Mark and spoke with intelligence and passion about how Jesus confronts fear – even the fear we feel when we contemplate change. I was really struck at the embodied feeling I had of being in the midst of a good concert while I was there. It reminded me of this article.

After lunch I took a short walk/run in the spring sunshine – yes, shining right there in the late winter afternoon in St. Paul. I jogged past kids on bikes and scooters. Others were running barefoot between piles of melting slush and snow. Parents were taking burlap off  bushes and cleaning up debris. The water was oozing down the sidewalks and gurgling in the drains. It felt like the earth was coming to life again. Dogs and crows competed for air time. Adding their own songs to the day.

Early evening I made my way to the new meeting place for the House of Mercy. “This is the House of Mercy and welcome to it!” The United Methodist sanctuary with gothic lines and large windows of stained glass is a stark contrast to the generally laid-back, coffee-drinking, banjo-picking, irony-making mostly-white crowd of dis/members at HoM. I enjoyed the restless sermon preached by toy-piano playing Tim Snyder. And singing from the old-time hymnal, watching the youngster parade, and taking communion all felt quite comfortable. As they like to say at HoM: “You should try it. It’s not bad.” 

I rounded out my day of worship by joining a ridiculously small crowd for a Kate Campbell concert at University Baptist Church. I say ridiculously small, because she is so lovely in person (even better than her recordings) that she should not be missed. (I posted in anticipation of the concert here.) She played guitar and sang. The sound in the sanctuary was just right. She took requests at the end. So I got to hear one of my all-time favorites, “In My Mother’s House.” Then after the show she sold me (and others) 1000-pound Machine, the album that is not to be released until April. (Yay!) I’ll be reviewing it soon. It has already knocked me over once.

The day and weekend of worship made me feel like I’d been on a whirlwind tour of church in North America. None of it was what I would call traditional, but it was in some traditional structures and spaces. And maybe that’s a good sign for churches at this point in time. The structures endure, but new things are happening. Good music fills the space and is mingled with silence and dance. Good honest news is still preached. It is not perfect, but I don’t think anyone promised that.

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