Since I stopped serving the Presbyterian Church I have been worshiping alongside my husband at the United Methodist Church of Davis. One thing I have enjoyed is finding a way to volunteer which uses my artistic gifts which I have employed, happily, in the area of worship art. As a cradle Presbyterian I have been raised with the idea that the table in the front of the church is not an altar, but a communion table, and the only thing that belongs on it is the Lord's Supper.
As a non-denominational seminary student, I was exposed to other ideas. I recall chapel services in which 7 lanterns representing 7 stars and 7 candles representing 7 cities of the Revelation to John were part of the altar arrangement one week. I recall other still life arrangements from flowers to musical instruments to paintings on easels to pitchers and bowls which evoked foot washing. I can tell you of churches which eschew every other object but must have two candles: one for the Old Testament, one for the New Testament. There are churches which use incense and candles, there are those who post holy icons. How one dresses a church for worship is as different as how one takes biblical authority and interpretation.
I was having a discussion with my husband just this evening at the community theater here in town, where we were attending son Sean's play, "Fairy Tales: Politically Correct". Summer in Davis isn't a dressy time of year. Come to think of it, no time is. You're dressed up in Davis if you're wearing your clean pair of jeans. I think it's rather sad, for how we present visuals whether they are how we dress ourselves, how we dress our tablescapes, or how we dress our altars in church say so much about what is underneath.
Now, I understand the argument that when one dresses casually, one can be comfortable and feel natural. Maybe that also means relaxed, and content in one's own skin. I get that, and God knows I love me some jeans most of the time. But I think it's a shame that we seem to have forgotten that some occasions and some places are worthy of our best attention and respect. The manner of our dress and comportment convey those sentiments, and can even help us to step up a bit to the occasion.
I agreed to dress the altar in church to help signify that our presence there and our focus on the table are worthy of attention and respect. I am proud to be part of a congregation that welcomes all into the presence of God, and on Reconciling Sunday our worship space will be dressed for the occasion. I am also proud of my fellow Presbyterians for taking a constitutional step which has been long in the making, by passing Amendment 10-A to the Presbyterian Book of Order. I look forward to hearing my Methodist pastor tomorrow as he preaches a sermon entitled, "All Means All."
Now it remains for us to continue to take the steps needed to make sure we are not only dressing the part, we are doing the part of making the church a place where all of God's children are truly welcome. Wouldn't you just love to see everyone around that table? I know I would.