Monday, February 15, 2010

Church Journey Week 4 (Winsted)

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This edition is brought to you by my husband, George.

Our spiritual pilgrimage continued at the First Church of Winsted: Baptist-Congregational on Sunday January 24, 2010 at 10:00a.m. The church is located north of the East End Park on Route 8. The stone building, according to the corner stone, was built in 1900. The structure is a testament to God and the faithfulness of His followers at the turn of that century. It has stain glass windows throughout. The one over the doors appears to be Christ in prayer. You have to enter by first ascending exterior stone staircase. This put you at a level equal to the top, except for the balcony, of the worship area. The seating is curved pews that descend from the narthax to an area in front of the pulpit that is raised and has room for a fairly good size choir. (None was available this particular Sunday.) Huge pillars are on either side in the front. The tops of the pillars have partially formed heads with expressionless faces.

When we entered we were offered a program, then were allowed to find our own way to a seat. We prefer to sit about half way down at a slight angle. This position works well especially when the church is equipped with large screen monitors to project Biblical verses or words to songs. (This church didn't have modern technology like this.)

The brochure depicts a pen and ink drawing of the exterior of the church. First Church was "gathered" in 1778. The slogan: The Church on the Green Where Caring People Gather to Worship God." This seemed at odds with the reception we had. The congregation was very small, probably fifty in a sanctuary that could easily hold 250or more. Only one person, a woman two pews in front of us, spoke with us. The others seemed to be absorbed in their own lives and probably sat in their "own" seat.

The pastor of the flock was the Reverend Michael Wu. A man of Korean decent, black hair, spoke with fluent English. His blond haired wife played the massive pipe organ. Candles in the front were lit by acolytes. This is a term we have heard quite often in our journey. An acolyte is someone who lights the candles and assists the minister as needed.

The order of service was typical congregational. Apparently since the church is Baptist/Congregational the wording for the Lord's Prayer alters between "forgive us our debts" preferred by the Baptist and "forgive us our trespasses" that is preferred by the Congregationalist. Fortunately, the bulletin tipped us off as to which word: debts or trespasses, to use. The Congregationalist won this one. Both terms seem foreign to our speech patterns of today. A more appropriate word would make this prayer clearer for us. Since both words mean "sin" it certainly makes more sense to simply say: "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

It has become customary for many Churches today to include the page of the text in the Bible along with the scriptural passage. Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of the Bible can find passages without this additional clue.

The Service concluded almost exactly an hour from when it started. Normally, we have coffee and refreshments with the congregants to gage the spiritual atmosphere of the worshipers. And to get free coffee and pastry too! However, since they were having their annual church meeting immediately after the service, we elected to duck out the back door. No one appeared to notice or care that we left.

The service of worship, although held in a beautiful facility and faithful testament of the founders, was lifeless and without genuine participation by the members. It was as though they were sleepwalking through the service, content not to become consciously aware of the purpose.

I looked up front for the flag: there was none. But when I turned around to view the balcony I saw it along with the "Christian" flag. Displayed correctly.

I might return here in the future to worship. I could tell that God was willing to make himself known when the congregation was prepared to receive him.

Winsted has two Baptist/Congregational churches. One on either end of town, with very similar architecture. At one time there were two Congregational churches and a Baptist church. Apparently there was an irreconcilable rift in the Baptist church that caused the members to disband and half united with each of the Congregational Churches. Since Baptist and Congregationalist have the same form of church government, this was not a problem. However, there are some differences in beliefs other than "debts" and "trespasses". Congregationalist baptize infants with "sprinkling of water". Baptist baptize with full emergence with those who have made the conscious, individual decision to follow Christ. So, the union works and doesn't work.

Debbie's 2 cents worth: Hey, it's my blog. I can do that. Actually, George did a great job and was quite accurate. I got the impression that the meeting following was of great importance and the members may have been wrapped up in what was to come--so much so that not only did they not talk to us, but one woman was blocking our row talking to someone else and not moving to let us out--annoying. The sermon even centered around being compassionate with different parts of the church body, working together with compassion and understanding and not to take things for granted and the reminder that many members make one body. He based his sermon on I Cor. 12:12-31.

Visiting these churches, I wish that we were more versed in architectural terms. The stain glass, the pillars, the organ...this church was magnificent in structural beauty. I wish I had the words to describe it, but with my 2 cent vocabulary, I cannot.

The First Church (American Baptist and United Church of Christ) of Winsted is located at 95 North Main Street, Winsted, CT. Worship service is at 10 am. It is the home of the wonderful (so we've heard from many and we plan to go one year) Boar's Head Festival and it hosts Steam Vent Coffee Houses. Website:

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