Our church buildings weren’t always ‘churchy’. One was an old house with linoleum floors that was peeling on the edges. We met in the largest room downstairs for worship and used the upstairs room for classes.
In a small Arkansas town we used a building that had been a funeral home. Slatted wooden chairs that connected were our pews. Daddy’s accordion the only music accompaniment until a piano could be purchased.
The Salvation Army has walked this fine line of social service/religion, of service as worship and identifying ourselves as more than a church. We tend to eschew the outward appearances of conventional churches; no steeples or bell towers.
When we spend our week in North Carolina every summer, we hold our conference on the grounds of the Methodist Assembly, the denomination that ordained our founder, William Booth.
There is a large auditorium where the main sessions are held and a small stone chapel where our group gathers for morning devotions.
There are no screens for media, stained glass windows are opened to allow fresh air in this space packed with bodies shoulder to shoulder, easy to slide over on the wood pews.
Some days before the band plays, you can hear the geese in the still of the morning, a thick mist hovers over the lake just beyond the stone walls.
Its appearance transports us to another time, one that quiets our spirit when we walk in, only to awaken when the band begins to play.
I’m convinced the environment of this structure, the images in the stained glass depicting Christ, the hard stone floor, the gentle cool breeze wafting its way in, the peak of the roof and exposed beams….all of its careful design pulls us away from our routine sights of stop lights and traffic jams and disrupts our mundane thoughts of to-do lists. We are ushered into a place that is steeped in peace. The bible describes a peace that passes understanding and this is that peace. Peace in the midst of troubles, doubt, and fear. Peace that readies us to face the unknown.
This stone chapel isn’t beautiful because of its appearance alone. It is beautiful because you know it is sacred ground and you are in the presence of the Holy of Holies.