SPOTLIGHT - From Altar Scape Design to Super Saturday Workshop

5/13/2019
By Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

From Altar Scape Design to Super Saturday Workshop

Bridgewater church youth member focused on mirrors and reflection for Ash Wednesday

Bridgewater church youth member focused on mirrors and reflection for Ash Wednesday

These Spotlight articles usually convey stories about churches whose members or pastors were inspired by Conference programs, workshops, or events to try something new at their own churches. This article however, shows how one young member took action at his church, and then was inspired to attend a Super Saturday workshop.

When  Rev. Beth Stotts, pastor at Central Square Congregational Church in Bridgewater, was struggling with what to do with the worship space for Lent this year, she reached out to Rebecca Sheibley, a youth in her congregation who is very active in theater and stage management at her high school.  The two met and talked about the meaning of Lent, the journey through the wilderness, and the spiritual practices associated with the season. 

When Stotts asked her if she had any ideas for how to prepare their sanctuary for the season, her eyes got big and she said "Mirrors."

“I got goose bumps!” said Stotts.

“I was inspired by that idea of reflection and introspection, which Reverend Beth brought up as a main theme of the season,” said Sheibley. “When we put these ideas into a literal, physical form, people are faced with the clear message of looking within oneself for guidance. The mirrors also allowed people in the church to see those sitting around them, helping them to understand more fully that they are not alone on their journey.”

Stotts then contacted her Altar Deacon and Jr. Altar Deacon and during their brainstorming session for the space’s logistics, their Junior Altar Deacon Jae, a 7th grader who happens to be the son of the pastor, took over. 

According to Stotts, the results were ‘incredible.’

Jae set up all types of mirrors of varying shapes and sizes throughout the sanctuary, along with a station where worshipers could paint a black cross on a white sheet with their fingers, connecting with "ashes" through their own fingers. 

When asked about the altar space Jae said, "Lent is a season of reflecting on your journey.  I wanted the sanctuary and mirrors to be like the wilderness." 

One woman came up to Stotts and said all the mirrors were powerful and rendered her speechless.  Another individual said it made him uncomfortable, which spurred a deeper conversation.  The church’s senior deacon was in awe and impressed by Rebecca and Jae's ability to go that deep and bring the congregation with them. 

“All throughout the season of Lent we journeyed through the wilderness in the practice of self-reflection,” said Stotts.  “The mirrors all around the sanctuary are such a good reminder and symbol of that work.”

Jae, however, was not the only youth involved in the Ash Wednesday service.  One youth member served as Minister of Music for the evening and the confirmation class led the Imposition of the Ashes. 

“On a day where we're reminded of our mortality and the circle of existence, it was amazing to have almost every aspect of worship taken over by the next generation of leaders,” said Stotts. 

“I guess for me it's important for us to see our place in the nature of all existence, and to acknowledge the bigness and smallness of who we are,” she said.  “We're big in that we matter and make an impact on the world.  We're small in that we're only one person.  We're dust, and we're matter.  To me, that's the core of Ash Wednesday.  From dust we came, to dust we shall return.  In the middle is what's important: what we do with each day.”

From Altar Scape Design to Super Saturday Workshop

“Multigenerational communities are so important in all of that because we can see the microcosm of existence and experience through being present to one another,” Stotts continued.  “Sadly, many times it's just the adults creating and sharing.  When we get children and youth involved, we experience "dust" differently.  Having a 14-year old imposing ashes is very different from having a 40-year old or even an 80-year old.  And those differences need to be lifted up because in the difference is God.”

The experience also inspired the designer himself. Jae attended his first Massachusetts Conference Super Saturday event in March. One of the three sessions he attended:  Altar Design.  He is very excited to continue to work with the church deacons on designing future altarscapes.

You can reach Pastor Beth Stotts at 508-697-6016 or email office@csccucc.com. On a side note, Beth says that she is thankful that Jae is finding his own place and his own voice in the church:  “It’s gotta be hard to be the pastor’s kid.”
 

Editor’s Note:  
The next
Super Saturday will be held October 5, 2019, at the Keefe Regional Technical High School in Framingham, MA.


Spotlight
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Source: Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
www.macucc.org/spotlight


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