Sunday, October 24, 2004

191 Clear the Clutter for Christ

For 34 years we lived in a lovely, two-story home on a beautiful street. This house had no basement and no attic, and very few closets; the two car garage was so tidy (thanks to my husband) we had room for two cars. We added closets to the house and did not allow clutter, not even in the garage. I made regular contributions to various clothing and household goods drives by the Kidney Foundation and Lutheran Social Services. Now we live in a condo that has basement storage, walls with built-in book shelves, a larger garage and an attic over the garage. Yes, now we are developing a clutter problem.

That happens to churches too. Stuff. It's the golden calf of the modern church. Here's an item from Builder's Newsletter on how to improve your physical worship space for under $1,000:

"You can improve your worship space without spending a lot of money. Consider these ways to get a lot of impact with a little investment:

• Update Lighting Fixtures

• Focus Light on the Primary Symbols

Clean Out the Clutter

• Remove Extraneous Furnishing

• Remove Seldom Used Seating

• Take Up the Carpet

• Vest for the Liturgical and Natural Season "
Builder's Newsletter

Earlier in the year our congregation focused on the best seller, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It was a sermon series, our SALT groups used it, our women's groups used it, the adult Sunday School used it and individuals used it. During the course of the study (several months), huge banners with the themes from Warren's book began to appear, hanging from the ceiling in the narthex/fellowship hall. They didn't mix well with the flags of nations and mission posters from an earlier theme and the seasonal decorations that various ministries put up. But they all are still there, fighting for the eye and mind of the members and visitors on their way to worship on Sunday, small groups meetings during the week, or weddings and funerals. They have become very bad, monotonous wallpaper. No one even notices or reads them now--except first timers, and I doubt that they find them spiritual. But this sort of mindless clutter is an ugly and common fact of almost every Protestant church in which I've ever worshipped.

The gallery space we use for art shows is littered with posters and signage for Sunday School. When the choir gives a concert, posters are plastered everywhere--even inside bathroom stalls and over mirrors in the ladies room. Although we have numerous bulletin boards, the ministry that oversees that decorates them, so there is no place for other ministries to post their information that week or month. There is a constant "real estate" battle, and if you hang your announcement in the wrong place, someone will take it down. Last week I stopped at a bulletin board that had four identical posters announcing an event--all for an event the previous week. Thus, the posters and memos start appearing on the walls, where the tape pulls off the paint or leaves a residue. The glass doors are considered just additional billboard space.

Today a member came up to me after church and told me how much she enjoys looking at the oil painting of the sheep beneath a large tree in a meadow, painted by local artist, Debbi VerHulst. It is hanging on a brick wall as you enter the sanctuary. It is peaceful and scriptural. And no one has hung a poster on the wall to compete with it.

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