August 24, 2009

Church Experiment #34: Concordia Lutheran

I felt incredibly conflicted going into this week’s visit. A few months ago, a member of Concordia Lutheran Church emailed me to say she had been following the Church Experiment, and sadly, her church had just dispersed a letter saying they would be closing their doors after 160 years.

She thought a church’s final service might be an interesting experience. I agreed.

Then, last week, she wrote me again saying August 23 was the day. After 160 years, Concordia Lutheran was gathering as a church body one last time. What first seemed interesting suddenly became sad.

The last thing I wanted to do was exploit a church in its darkest hour. But from the beginning, I committed to following God on this journey, and too many signs were pointing in the direction of Concordia Lutheran to ignore the nudge.

So, this week’s stop is a little different. Instead of critiquing Concordia Lutheran, I decided to experience their final service through the eyes of its members. I want to tell their story, not mine. Through a few hundred words, this is my best shot …

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


Jenny Lynn said...

Steve, thanks. I always have appreciated and admired the way you tell a story: documenting glimpses of life as it happens. My parents were married at, as well as born and raised me at Concordia until I was fifteen. That was my childhood. Thanks for writing a story that focused on what I want to remember as well as look forward to. You gave everyone such dignity and hope for rebirth in this post.

-Jenn Silver

The Kaintuckeean said...

This reminds me of a great painting my parents had in their house - given to them from a room in my maternal grandparents' home.

The painting depicted an old church with overgrowth around it and a wooden sign: "CLOSED DUE TO RAPTURE"

All in the Church were gone - taken up. Hopefully, the people of Concordia will each go on to spread their faith and hope. Thanks for a great post.

The Kaintuckeean said...

Oh, and I do a micro-version of what you do. When the opportunity arises, I try a new/different experience.

I would suggest you add a Latin Mass to your list of visits to make. I'm sure there is one in the Cincinnati area; I know there is one in Covington, KY; I went to one for the first time yesterday at St. Peter's in Lexington.

It was different, I didn't really know what was going on, but I still felt moved in the end. Pretty cool.

Keep up the good work.

Sandy Maudlin said...

Your Monday morning posts are an important part of starting my week. Thanks for your insight and perspective. I'm learning a lot from reading your viewpoints. Love it!

Micah said...

It's a great and brave thing to do what Concordia has done, and I wish more churches would have the courage do it.

The pain and loss those people feel is legitimate and understandable, just like it would be for a funeral. Like you say, though, it's not the organization that matters. It's the people. Once a church is on life support, why keep trying to raise the dead when it's so much easier to give birth?

Jon said...

I agree, Sandy! I look forward to Monday mornings now because of this blog.

As an aside, I taught several kids in H.S. that attended Concordia Lutheran Grade School. They were polite, hard-working, and spiritual. I assume that the school is closing as well?

John Arns said...

Wow, the pain of loss for Concordia is overwhelming; our family experienced our church closing several years ago. We grieved and then moved forward. And were later happy with the forced change.

Death of anything or anyone hurts so badly and has definitely been the most difficult part of life for me to handle as it is for others. But after we grieve, we experience beginnings. newness bright and fresh that we might otherwise wouldn't have seen had we not allowed our grief to occur and then persevered through it so we can move forward.

I'm glad Concordia Lutheran is able to grieve and see the light of hope and rebirth for all the people in their congregation. Looking forward instead of backward.

Thanks for empathizing with them in their sadness, Steve.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

It is always sad when a church closes; but it is a definite fact that the buildings are totally secondary. Here in London (UK), many church buildings have two or three different churches meeting in them on a Sunday. Ours certainly does.

Have you plans to attend a house church during your journey? I don't know how many there are now, but at one stage they were legion - a group of people meeting as a church quite literally in someone's front room.

Erin said...

I am joining your blog in mid stream here. It seems people are church hopping in many places. Many people go to church to "get something out of it". We are all on a journey, some of us actively seek to participate in the spiritual aspect of the trip. From organized church the important question to ask ourselves is "Did God feel worshiped because I was there?" Blessing to you and I know you will find your way.

Anonymous said...

This entry moved me more than anything else you've written about in this experiment.
Laurel Hoftenzeb

Jamie said...

honestly, I cried a little.. I don't attend church anymore, but I imagine that I'd feel pain if the church I grew up in were to close.. It's strange that I have such vivid and happy memories of a place I only went to twice a week. Interestingly, the inside looks almost exactly like this church only a little darker. It's the First Methodist Church in Cocoa Beach, Florida. A Frame and all..

M. said...

Wow, my friend used to go to school there before I met her. She was so upset when it closed down, and even though it was part of her own life, I feel pleased to see this on here and sad it did unfortunately close down. :(

Perla_Margherita said...

I was baptized at Concordia! I actually had no idea it was closed until reading your post - I haven't lived in Cincinnati in several years.

Ellen scheidt eich said...

Thank you for your touching article about your visit to Concordia. My father, Arthur Scheidt, was pastor there from 1959 to 1978. I have wonderful memories of the people, the worship at the church on Race Street, at "the branch" school location, then the building the new sanctuary that you visited, being on the organ committee, playing that outstanding organ. It was a difficult decision to close and I pray blessings for all those who now worship elsewhere. Ellen Scheidt Eich