House Church

by John Jackson

When my grandmother had her 80th birthday in the early 1980s, my family came to Roanoke from our home in Richmond to celebrate. We called my grandmother, Grandma Edie, and she was my last living grandparent. My mom (her eldest daughter) stressed the importance of being present for this special occasion. The weekend was filled with parties, a reception at her assisted living home, and house church. My aunt and my grandmother both attended Christ Lutheran at the time, but for this occasion, my aunt and my mom felt strongly that a special service be held to honor Grandma Edie on reaching this milestone.

My grandmother’s brother, Arthur, was a Lutheran pastor in Michigan. He agreed to preside over the house church service. On a Sunday, the final day of the birthday celebration, we gathered in the living room of my aunt’s home—sitting on the couch that I, about 10 years old at the time, had slept on the previous night—and held church. There were hymns (no organ accompaniment, just bad singing), readings, prayer, and communion. The coffee table became an altar. The couch and surrounding seats were our pews. Uncle Arthur stood and preached a sermon. I don’t remember the exact count, but Edie’s three children—my mom, Uncle Dave, and Aunt Rosemary—and their respective families and friends attended. 

 “This is how the early Christians worshipped,” I remember hearing my mom say as my siblings and I asked why we held such a service instead of attending the usual church in person. It seemed corny at the time but it was a memory that clearly stuck with me.  

In the last several weeks, many of us have had to adapt to “house church.” Our Palm Sunday and Easter celebrations were held in living rooms, dens, or kitchen tables tuned to YouTube. Thanks to technology and the creative gifts of the clergy, musicians, choir members, volunteers, and staff at St. John’s, we’ve been able to carry on the tradition of worship first started by our Christian ancestors centuries ago. Jesus promises us, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” - Matthew 18:20.  Through technology, email, a phone call, or a socially distanced visit or wave, Christ still moves and is among us. Thanks be to God. 

Banner photo: John Jackson’s Grandma Edie in the middle of the adults, and John Jackson as a boy on the right.

This is the third post in a series of posts called, "Our Daily Bread." John Jackson remembers celebrating house church with his Grandma Edie and family, and adapting to house church in the past several weeks. If you would like to reflect on those things that are nourishing you during this time and share your reflection with others, please email your written piece or artwork to Chrissy Mortlock, cmortlock@stjohnsroanoke.org

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