Saint John’s Presbyterian Church
Reno, NV 89509
Approaching the end of a beautiful late-spring morning, with the scent of sagebrush and pine heavy on a light breeze after a week’s worth of rain, the doors to Saint John’s Presbyterian Church are thrown wide open to welcome the congregation to the 11 a.m. Sunday service. The greeters, who wait like guards at the doors of the church, distribute programs to each person of the large congregation with a smile.
Inside the worship hall, the walls are lined with small turrets of stained-glass, beneath a high steeple. Gigantic wooden arches bow gracefully over the congregation which fills the rows of soft pews beneath, and the people eagerly exchange “hellos” and “nice weathers” as a lone organ plays dolefully. The choir, robed in dark green, quietly enters at the head of the church, taking their seats on stage beside the altar. Above the stage, mounted to the wall, hangs a large copper cross.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about going to a new church is the uncertainty of how to participate: Will the congregation stand at some point that I don’t know about?
What if the entire congregation begins to sing, and I don’t know the words? Why is everyone bowing their heads?
However, at Saint John’s, nearly the entire service—from the words of the pastor to the responses of the people—is placed in the program, the leader of the church will speak, and the people respond by the printed words on the page. And so, the service is begun, according to page one, and announcements are made, commenting on endowments and departures from the congregation, while rowdy infants gurgle their own opinions on each matter. A brief portion of the Bible is read regarding ways to find happiness and contentment: “Consider the lilies of the field.” A small allotment of singing comes from the choir, and then all of the young children are ushered out to Kingdom Kids, the Sunday school during church.
The sermon given by the pastor, Rev, Dr. Richard C. Wiggers, is based on spiritual health. In the current climate of economic uncertainty, Rev. Wiggers advises those in attendance not to be anxious. “In times when we receive hourly updates on the troubles of the world … with the price of gas and even a loaf of bread is on the rise, it’s important to focus on the basics of life.”
To reaffirm this point, the reverend gives a brief history about the serenity prayer, how it traveled with soldiers in World War I and eventually became part of the doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous. The serenity prayer is read in its entirety by Rev. Wiggers and is followed by the Lord’s Prayer before communion is brought into the congregation. The body of Christ is offered as a white, wheat or wafer bread, and grape juice is substituted for wine.
There are mixed emotions about the day. While the congregation celebrates the 10 high school graduates of 2008, the church’s director of education, Pam Kamseth, is retiring after 20 years of service to the church. The graduating class of 2008 is given adult study Bibles and is informed of how proud the church is of their accomplishments, and how hopeful they are for their future.
Before the service is concluded Rev. Wiggers reminds the congregation to pay attention to the words of Matthew: “Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow … take comfort in the knowledge that God is with you.”