|First Lutheran Church, Morris MN|
I faintly remember that as a preschool child, in St. Paul, we attended a church with accommodations for families with potentially noisy kids. I was probably one of them. There was a section at the back of the sanctuary with a glass panel in front. First Lutheran in Morris would benefit from this.
First Lutheran would seem to have drawbacks with its design. Obviously it was designed in the days before "handicapped accessibility." So was our old school, the one torn down not long ago. It's not that our society didn't care about handicapped people. I suppose we felt that special, separate accommodations could be made for them. Eventually the philosophy took hold that we must help those individuals feel like part of the mainstream. Instead of family or friends lifting a wheelchair up over a curb, the curb could be sloped so the handicapped person could handle it alone.
First Lutheran has steps and stairs all over the place. It's essentially split-level. You enter in front and have to decide: go up or down? The only ground floor place is the entry on the east where the elevator is located. The elevator was added when handicapped awareness reached a point where it was a necessity. It was a problem for First Lutheran because I guess it could not be installed close to the sanctuary. First Lutheran had no choice, I'm told, but to install it way over on the east end, next to the parking lot. This leaves a considerable distance between the elevator and sanctuary, whereas at Assumption Church (the Catholic church), you're in the sanctuary, the front in fact, when you step out of the elevator.
Faith Lutheran Church on the west side of town is 180 degrees from First in terms of its accessibility for people who are either handicapped or challenged for walking. Remember, we have an aging population. Medical science has given us this miracle, but it comes with the rather substantial challenge of seeing that people are accommodated for their limitations or weaknesses. Heck, I'll be 60 years old next year! It's a myth that us boomers never age.
Faith Lutheran has no steps or stairs whatsoever, not even at the entrance. Logically it should be our church, given that my mother is 90 years of age, but she has belonged to First Lutheran since we came to Morris over 50 years ago.
At First Lutheran, the men's restroom is on one floor, the women's on the other! I guess they've added a unisex restroom also.
It can be hard for people seated toward the back of the sanctuary to see what's going on in front. One might suggest that a sanctuary be designed so that seats in back are higher than those in front.
I'm not sure a full-fledged pipe organ is needed in our new tech age, an age that would have a simple electronic keyboard and a couple tiny speakers produce a very full sound.
When I was a kid, an usher would greet you at the sanctuary entrance and guide you to a suggested seating spot. The usher would be a male pillar of the community, dressed in suit and tie. Today you are merely handed some literature for that day, then you simply choose a spot. Lots of seating is usually available.
Author Maurice Faust remembers from his youth how families actually had reserved spots among the pews, for which specific payment was made. BTW his memories are concentrated from the '30s and '40s, and originated from Pierz MN. The book was written some time ago. I'll quote again:
I'll share some more from Faust's book:
Pastor Erdal gave a wonderful speech for my father's funeral. He was available to come to the hospital on the night my father suddenly passed away. I will never forget those moments when he recited important scriptural stuff.
It is very nice that the street in front of First Lutheran finally got re-paved. That was a belated step, but it's nice now.
Frankly, I think the best thing for Morris ELCA Lutherans would be one nice new big church, designed according to all the current standards. It could be on the outskirts of town with a big paved parking lot. Of course, anyone can be committed to Christianity or any other faith without going to a building once a week.
The Morris Community Church has moved into the building where I had my office for 27 years. That's the old Morris Sun Tribune building. I don't know why those parishioners can't just come over to First Lutheran which is a stone's throw away.
I think the Morris Community Church was created in a time when my generation was jaded and skeptical about the traditional mainstream denominations. Young people today probably wouldn't know what I'm talking about, but that air of resignation and skepticism was very real at one time. We saw those old churches as too detached from the issues of the day - too staid. The Morris Community Church with Neil Thielke at the forefront had a more organic, sincere feel about it, in the eyes of many.
An organization called "Young Life" was created for Morris youth, separate from the old denominations. Young people weren't all that interested in "Luther League" or its counterparts anymore. All this was a phase our nation passed through. It may seem an odd historical curiosity now. Today the traditional denominations forge ahead.
We never know what the future will bring.