Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Highlands Lutheran Church
Back in September I worshipped with Highlands Lutheran Church as part of my visiting churches project. I am also concentrating on this church as part of a research project for my sociology of congregations class. HLC is an interesting study because they are a somewhat traditional lutheran church (in terms of theology and practice) but have a very vibrant young adult population. My research project will end up being 25 pages or so, so I definitely won't post that here, but I might post some of what I learned. At any rate, here are my experiences from worship.
Highlands Lutheran is in terms of physical space, a very traditional congregation. They have a typical sanctuary with pews and a raised chancel. The worship service was traditional and involved the hymnal and liturgy that I have known my entire life. Which is comforting and makes me feel a part of an ELCA church wherever I go. The very small choir did an excellent job of leading the worship. I also appreciated the remembrance of baptism that happened at the start of the service. The pastor did a really excellent job of welcoming visitors and making sure that we knew what was going on during the service. This seems to be a fairly small congregation, and they seem to really like each other a whole lot. My experience as a visitor was that while the pastor was really welcoming, the congregation was not sure how best to do that. Sharing the peace is the most awkward part of visiting a congregation like this. During this time in the service they are all greeting each other and hugging one another and talking about their lives. A visitor really feels like an outsider. I do not think that this is intentional, but things done (or not done) out of simply not paying attention are still not helpful.
What I learned:
1. It falls to the pastor to make sure that visitors know what is going on in the service, and they will come back if they feel like their presence matters
2. However it also falls to the pastor to make sure that their congregation knows that they share the responsibility for welcoming visitors. Church is not a social club.
3. I think having a physical reminder of baptism (in this case actually involving water, not just words) at the start of every service is a huge part of our identity as Lutherans.