People are surprised when they come to Roots of Life for the first time. If you are looking for a new church, the simple act of walking over the threshold can be a high anxiety producing event. Why do I know this? Because it happens to me too. When I’m on vacation, or when visiting family out of town, I like to visit the local church, but it is still stressful, albeit of my own making.
They say that when you first encounter someone new, you make about 20 assumptions about the person, within the first few seconds; from their economic status to their education, culture and political viewpoints, even their sense of humor. Driving to church this morning I followed someone who I thought could be my friend. She was driving a clean white newer model minivan, had a “Fueled for School” window cling, a –Pete- window cling, and a Butler Bulldog, license frame. If you are her, ring me up and let’s have coffee! On the other hand, yesterday when I was driving I followed. . . well never mind.
It is the same way with buildings, specifically church buildings. What does the architecture say about the theology of a place of worship? Old traditional steeple? It means the architect was trying to reach out and touch God; or stairway to heaven? How about the newer Pole Barn structures? Relatively inexpensive, get more for less? Possibly a new way of doing church? Perhaps you think I’m being stereotypical, because, after all, you just cannot choose a book by her cover.
Take our Roots of Life building. We have a rainbow brick trimming around the windows and two large triangle windows, think Dark Side of the Moon Album cover and you got it! There is a Free Little Library, and two unkempt, but tomato producing gardens out front, with bushes that are neatly trimmed. What does this say to the uninformed? Many people think this is the perfect building for us, that she stayed vacant until we were ready to find her. Since we are unabashedly welcoming to everyone, the rainbow fits. We are a community of readers, thinkers, gardeners, and an expression of Lutherans.
Most everyone is surprised when they walk through the doors. It is like walking into the backdoor of your best friend’s kitchen; lots of tables, the kitchen counter laden with snacks and coffee. It feels like home and people are put to ease because of the hospitality. The conversations are easy, and sometime raucous. Kid’s are comfortable and babies are passed between adults like a family reunion.
When the bell is rung, people migrate to the living room/sanctuary. We then pray, sing, learn and think about who God is, and who we are called to be. I write this column to help you understand that every pastor, and leaders of faith communities want you to feel welcomed when you walk in the door. The art, the chosen colors, the architecture of the building, along with the people you encounter, the worship service are all intentional and are symbolic of how their faith community relates to God and to God’s people.
It is my hope that when you are looking for a faith community, you will look beyond the walls and take a deep dive into the heart and stories of the people who welcome you. See you in church!