American classic

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd

Associate pastor Rebecca Schlatter at the baptismal font at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.

Associate pastor Rebecca Schlatter at the baptismal font at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.

Photo By David Robert

I sat distracted in the sanctuary through much of the 10:15 a.m. service of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing my job—taking six pages of notes, observing the proceedings, keeping my son, Hunter, on point—but I had this strong feeling I’d been through one of these services before. I’ve never been through a Lutheran service in my life, and I don’t think I’ve even been to a Lutheran wedding. Yet, the service fit me like an old glove.

A theory developed: This is the quintessential American church. This little brick church is that place I saw on all those Thanksgiving Day special presentations on TV or the place where weddings happen in the movies.

I was utterly charmed by the architecture of this church. It’s pretty small—I think there were about 30 of the bleached-wood, removable-cushion pews in the sanctuary. It’s on the corner of California and Arlington avenues. Upon entry, there’s a fairly large vestibule, called the Shepherd’s Room, where people congregate before and after services with couches, tables and various church-related information.

The chancel—the raised area at the front of the church—held a lectern, the wooden altar, an organ, a couple of bouquets. A simple, wooden crucifix was suspended above the altar, which was appointed in green. On the chancel’s back wall (the front of the church) were two stained-glass panes and the organ pipes. The sanctuary has red brick walls, which match the materials of much of the church. The slightly different colors in the brick suggested multiple building additions over the years. The walls were further decorated with various tapestries and some landscape photographs, which my hostess, Sheila Freed, told me had been made by a church member. The walls were also graced by more stained-glass windows, some particularly interesting ones depicting Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The service began with church announcements, then a thanks-for-baptism prayer, followed by a procession from the rear of the church, beginning near the baptismal font. It was led by a boy carrying a crucifix. He was followed by the lay minister and Rebecca Schlatter, associate pastor. I was a bit disappointed not to see Carl Wilfrid, senior pastor, since we once shared an enjoyable lunch together, but he’s on sabbatical.

There’s a lot of singing in the Lutheran service. It’s of a fairly traditional variety of hymns, but I’m told the 9 a.m. service is more geared toward young people, which often means more rockin’ music. The prayers, like the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, are also familiar to those of the Christian tradition.

There were three readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-6 and Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. Pastor Schlatter mostly referred to the Luke passages for her sermon. While Luke focused on gaining followers, and she referred to this, I was actually more intrigued with what she said in the beginning part of the sermon because it’s similar to something I think about a lot. She was talking about how essential the church community is in times of personal distress. “How difficult life must be without that community,” she said. “How many people would find the Kingdom of God [church community] to be a total revelation?”

She said people must put themselves “out there,” take some chances, if they are going to help people come to God. “If you’ve never been taken advantage of, you’re probably not being the church.”

I think she’s right. In many ways, community is all that is lacking in modern society. I saw a charming one over at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.

Want to take Brian to your place of worship? Call 324-4440 ext. 3525.