GOD HAS USED OUR HANDS TO BUILD HIS HOUSE
As we followed our members to Chelmsford, we discovered new resources and opportunities for witness and growth. The building of a new church gave us the occasion to ask ourselves what it is that we believe, and to use that understanding as the basis for planning our building.
WE BELIEVE?WE EXPRESS OUR BELIEF
The Lutheran church embraces the long tradition of Christian worship which we celebrate in the liturgy each Sunday morning. As we worship, the pastor, lay assistants, choir, and congregation all participate in word and song, joining their voices in praise to their creator. Liturgical worship is at the same time reverent and welcoming, inviting all to become part of our fellowship. Our architecture and furnishings support our worship.
From the time of Martin Luther, the Lutheran church has placed a strong emphasis on education. Lifelong learning is encouraged, and numerous opportunities for growing in faith are offered for both children and adults: Sunday church school, confirmation classes, vacation church school, adult forums, music ministries, and small group studies.
The hallmark of Lutheran faith is that humans become reconciled to their creator through faith in the grace of God shown to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our worship, our education, and our devotional lives are centered around this central teaching. The written symbols of the faith, such as creeds and confessions, and the visual symbols, such as the cross, the baptismal font, and the altar, all bear witness to the God who comes to us in Christ, invites us into fellowship with God and with one another, and molds us through the Spirit into a new community of faith.
THE ALTAR AND THE PULPIT
As we planned how the visual symbols of the faith in our worship space could express our belief, we considered the Lutheran teaching that the church exists when two conditions are present: when the Word of God is preached in its truth and purity, and when the Sacraments are administered rightly. These are the two ways in which God comes to us, and the pulpit and altar are visual expressions of that belief. Symbolically, then, by giving them equal visual weight, we are expressing the conviction that God comes to us in both Word and Sacrament. The pulpit and altar are placed where they point to the cross, which remains the central focus of worship.As far as we are able to tell, this is the first time the altar and the pulpit have been placed in the twin positions they assume in our chancel. Traditionally, the altar is central, pointing out the important place of the sacrament of Holy Communion, and the altar is surmounted by the cross as the focal point of worship. In this same tradition, the pulpit is off to the side.
As we sat down to determine how to put into form what we believe, we saw the altar (symbolic of the Word of God) and the pulpit (symbolic of the sacramental presence of God) as being means of God's grace or ways in which Christ comes to men (it might even be said that these are man's most effective ways of coming to God). Thus we have placed the altar and pulpit in positions where they "point to" or "lead up to" the cross.
Martin Luther said that the church is where the Word of God is preached in its truth and purity and where the Sacraments are administered accordingly. And so we have tried to be completely Lutheran in our expression of what the church is.
Another manner of looking at the position of altar and pulpit is that in such positioning we tried to incorporate the best parts of two traditions; namely, that the pulpit should be central (as in most Reformed congregation) because it represents God speaking to us, and that the altar should be central (the liturgical tradition) because it speaks of the actual presence of God.
The cross is probably the most unusual part of the entire church. Why were we so unconventional? The cross is a part of the chancel furnishing of the church, and as such had to be designed to fit in with the building in which it is to be housed. A traditional cross of two members would be lost in the dominant verticals of the redwood and the horizontals of the stained glass, and we didn't want the cross to be lost, because it is the most important symbol in our worship. Again, we looked at what we believe.
Our cross expresses to us the length and breadth and depth of our faith. As early as Genesis 3 the "tree of life" is the symbol used for everlasting life. Christ spoke of himself as the "vine" to which all believers are attached as "branches"-drawing their very life from him. And the book of Revelation in the New Testament gives us a vision of the New Jerusalem, where the tree of life provides healing to the nations. The early Christian church often represented the cross of Christ as a growing, leafing tree, providing salvation to all of creation.
THE FLOWER STAND AND THE CANDELABRA
The candelabra, in like manner, carry out the idea of life. More specifically, they speak of the light of Christ that gives meaning to life.
THE BAPTISMAL FONT
It has been said that our baptismal font is so near the entrance that someone who didn't know where he or she was going might run into it. This is precisely the idea. The font is placed near the entrance so that everyone who enters might be reminded that this is the way one enters the Christian life: through Holy Baptism. Baptisms are conducted during the service of worship so that the congregation will have the opportunity of being sponsors or godparents for the child. We are reminded that baptism is not an individual event; we are baptized into the Body of Christ, the whole Christian church.
The font, as well as the pulpit and altar, are made of Chelmsford granite to symbolize an offering of the surrounding environment to our Lord.
THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
Our windows, imported from Germany and France, make us aware of our connections to the world-wide church of Christ. Those near the baptismal font, illuminated during the morning hours, bear the colors of the morning sky, reminding us that our Christian life begins in baptism. The side windows are brilliant blues, speaking of God's warmth and strength, which follow us through our days. The chancel windows, illuminated in the evening, are deep reds, reminding us of God's loving action toward us in the cross of Christ. As we worship, we are surrounded by signs of God's presence, new every morning, different each day.