The Weather Report

Margaret Visser has visited more churches than most. So I take note when she observes that a church is intentionally meaningful. “Churches are laid out with a certain trajectory of the soul in mind,”1  she writes. The angles and openings form what she calls the “Geometry of love.”
The intentionality of the sanctuary at Immanuel Baptist Church came to mind recently. For starters, it invites the outside world inside. Sunlight on a summer’s day can move a worshiper from his/her accustomed seat. At worship, the faithful seem to put on the green of spring and the red of autumn like one puts on a favorite shirt. In this very room, we observe the ordered processes of nature: While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.2 
This was again evident to me Christmas Eve. Night fell, wrapping us in darkness, as if attempting to peer through the windows so as to observe us. There are many words to describe what I experienced, but “poignant” is my choice. In this very room we were called to remember the story of Jesus’ birth. For nearly an hour our comings and goings were suspended and we surrendered to the Holy Other. 
The day began however like most others. Graciously granted another ride around the sun, I put my feet to the floor with thoughts of my Christmas Eve mediation swirling in my head. Given that I would be holding a baby in my arms, I pressed myself to commit the text to memory. With my preparation nearly completed, I answered my phone. The message was unsettling. A dear friend of ours had been found dead in her sleep. 
So I entered the sanctuary Christmas Eve a mixed bag of feelings. Walking in the procession, I followed the one carrying the candle to the altar where it was placed to signify the presence of Christ. Moments later, the children skipped to the front for a time prepared just for them. Then, as if imitating the journey of the shepherds and wise men, the congregation filed to the altar to receive the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper. We journeyed toward Christmas. This very room permitted what one historian describes as “our comings and goings, entrances and exits, womb, tomb and everything in between.”3 
In the middle of January we will gather for our friend’s memorial service. The sunlight will be a shadow of its summer self. Color will be scarce, likely a mid-winter gray. In the very room where we dedicate the entrance of a baby into our watch care we will honor the exit of a favorite saint into God’s eternal presence. Anticipating that time I am reminded of this nonagenarian’s constancy in her search for and identification of joy. I am convinced that she believed joy to be the Christian’s duty. That in joy she found the hinge between what she ought to do and what God had done for her.   
The sanctuary at Immanuel is intentional in design. It seeks to hold us, to trap us, in the possibility of the presence of God. Here, our need for acceptance, affirmation and affection are satisfied. I find it impossible not to be touched by the poignancy of what happens here.    —Steven
 
1 Visser, Margaret. The Geometry of Love. P.4.
2 Genesis 8.22.
3 Schama, Simon. Power of Art. P.439.