St. Severin’s Old Log Church was built in 1851 and was the worshiping home of around 35 German families when it opened. Though it stopped being used around 1880, it has been maintained by nearby parishioners since then. Its steeple makes it a rather unique log structure, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
I was delighted to find it empty. And open. (With a branch through the door handles as its lock!) There’s a sweet, nostalgic loneliness in a structure like this. Being here with others would wreck the mood.
Entering, I find the sanctuary to be small and rudimentary. Two rows of bare, wooden pews lead to a simple table and a curious arch of twisted branches. I climb the weathered stairs to a tiny balcony to get a shot looking down.
Returning to the ground floor, I sit in one of the pews and try to imagine the congregation in worship. On my mind is the random conversation I had the other day with someone from a former church. He told me that regular attenders number only around forty, a fraction of the crowd that once filled the sanctuary.
Old, simple and sadly beautiful. Is that how Christianity appears to the world? Archaic. Noble in some of its principles but sadly out of touch. Or worse: characterized by angry, judgmental, and generally unloving people.
If so, what’s the antidote?
The simple answer: “Jesus.” (But you knew that.) In a sense, though, it’s not that simple. Sure, there are churches that have left the gospel outside of their preaching and spiritual life. But even for those of us who profess Christ as Savior and Lord, what does our knowledge of Jesus produce?
Peter speaks to this very issue in 2 Peter 1. He lists a sequence of character traits (in essence, fruit of the Spirit) that should be added to a Christian’s life: faith, goodness, knowledge, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. Then he explains their purpose:
they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (vs. 8)
This is the light that the world needs to see in the church. Not that we simply know what Jesus has done for us. But that our knowledge of him is effective and productive in our lives. Knowing Jesus isn’t to be worn like a badge but a borne seed – planted to transform the barren ground, slowly and completely, into a fertile garden. Thinking of it that way, a building like this is just a barn for storing the unplanted seeds. And also, I suppose, for a weekly harvest festival.
So, I’m pleased to find a floral accent on the end of each pew. And, now, I understand better the vine-like arbor at the altar.
What will the knowledge of Jesus grow in me today?
Jesus, teach us about yourself. And let that knowledge produce what you want, that we may be more and more like you.
Reader: Do you share my love for old church buildings? If so, what do you learn from them?