A right spirit

Lord of Mercy Lutheran Church

Pastor Mary Lou Petitjean discusses traditional versus contemporary services.

Pastor Mary Lou Petitjean discusses traditional versus contemporary services.

Photo By David Robert

The Lord of Mercy Lutheran Church, 3400 Pyramid Way, 358-7863, has two types of services on Sundays: Contemporary worship is at 8:30 a.m.; traditional is at 11 a.m. Sunday school is at 9:45 a.m. Call 358-7863.

I look for churches the way some people look for new restaurants. I’m often on the watch for signs that announce service times. You’d be surprised how many churches in this day and age don’t have websites. At any rate, I was driving up Pyramid Way and noticed this little church with its tower and sign across from G & G Nursery. Eleven o’clock? Perfect.

The smallish foyer was packed when I arrived. People were cheerful and talkative, and they were standing near an industrial sized coffee urn and a couple plates of cookies. I was trying to behave myself on Sunday, so I stayed away from the cookies. Funny, it seems I can find temptation anywhere I go.

I was looking for the bulletin when Jean Shaw saw I needed assistance. I’m not sure if she was acting as greeter, but she was certainly willing to help. She’s been a member of the congregation since 1978. She introduced me around to some of the people, including Rev. Mary Lou Petitjean. I got the impression that a good many of the members had been around some years, although Rev. Petitjean said only two of the originals from the church’s 1964 opening were still around.

The sanctuary was an unpretentious, bright, rectangular room. The congregation was seated on metal chairs with blue pads. The floor was tile, the ceiling had that bumpy texture that was so popular in the ‘70s, and the lights were fluorescent. There were abstract-styled stained glass windows on the walls and on the wall behind the altar. The one behind the altar was made of concentric circles emanating from the intersection of the vertical and horizontal beams of a cross. The dais was simple as well, altar, a couple of tapestries on the wall, a few chairs, candles and bouquet.

The right wall had a piano, an electric organ and seats for a choir. There was also a microphone at the rear used for some of the service’s reading and musical business. The music was traditional, a couple strong singers leading the way for the congregation. The 8:30 a.m. service, I’m told, has more contemporary music for the younger crowd.

The service began with announcements and the greeting. The greeting really gives me an idea about the congregation. It was a small group, maybe 35 people, but these people greeted each other like old friends and family, and they included me in the family. The announcements included such items as a plea for cash from two parishioners who are going to sleep in cardboard boxes this weekend in Wingfield Park to help the homeless; Lord of Mercy T-shirts are for sale, and the new liturgical book has a handy pocket to hold the bulletin.

The service was friendly with frequent exchanges between the minister and the flock. Apparently, there have been some changes to the liturgy that everyone’s getting used to. The first reading was from Amos, the second from 1 Timothy. Pastor Petitjean read from Luke 16:1-13, which is the story about the rich man with the unethical manager.

To illustrate her point, she told the story of Ed the janitor, with whom she’d worked when she was an interim pastor earlier in her career. It seems the poor janitor found 10 crisp $100 bills in a closet (left there by a forgetful minister), and without thinking about it, he brought the money to the pastor, excited that he’d found that much money for the church.

“Ed was trustworthy in little, and trustworthy in much,” she said. The point of the reading and Ed’s story is that “you can’t be a slave to worldly wealth and serve God.” People who get their rewards in life aren’t likely to reap heavenly rewards.