Think. Serve. Worship. Belong.

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Our Congregation’s Public Square 

Fritz Ritsch and Warner Bailey 

This portrait of the late Lou Freise, a sometime guest and later friend (after he got a job and moved into housing) of Room in the Inn, is just one of several portraits of our RITI guests that hang in the Narthex and also on the wall across from the kitchen.

Have you noticed the “buzz” in our entrance space (the Narthex) lately? On one side, a Christmas tree brimming with lights, surrounded by brightly colored sacks of gifts. Bicycles nosing out of every nook and cranny. Looking out from the opposite side are portraits of guests of our Room in the Inn (RITI) done in charcoal and nicely framed, their faces expressive of pride, gratitude, determination. All of this is watched over by the gorgeous tapestries depicting in glowing colors the rich theological and historical heritage of our faith.

We believe the “buzz” is not just from the gracious conversation we are having with each other as we munch cookies. The “buzz” in the buzz comes from those unseen persons who are represented by bags of gifts, bicycles and portraits. Who are they? Families with children served by our Presbyterian Children’s Home and Service Agency. Disabled Veterans. Homeless

men who are determined to find their journey to a permanent home. They are here with us as well.

The saints from earlier years are here, too, particularly those who put heart and soul and skill into creating the marvelous tapestries, and beyond them, to the saints of old who are our champions in the faith. 
The outreach of our congregation brings all of them in among us as we reach out and up to them. Our worship, for which we are widely known, results in our public space of the Narthex being crowded with our mission. Our faith, spoken so eloquently and beautifully by the symbols on the hangings, takes on “legs” and walks out of the sanctuary with us into the Narthex.

Can you imagine how a homeless person must feel to know that their portrait hangs where God is worshipped? What care! What affirmation! Can you imagine how a child will feel on Christmas when that hoped for bicycle arrives? What confidence! What freedom!

We know that we inhabit a very special place when we walk through the doors to St. Stephen. We are well aware of the burden of necessity of being good stewards of our heritage and honoring our past. That is why, for example, the Session heard from three committees, Worship, Mission and Property, as it made up its mind to allow the portraits to be hung. This decision was not lightly made. They are intended to hang through the months of RITI before being removed, as a constant reminder of our Lord’s command to reach out “to the least of these.” But more, they help us be the church we want to be—open, not stuffy, encouraging, thinking, praying, uplifting.

When we were kids, we all learned the finger game: “This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the doors: Look at all the people!” As we all know, a church isn’t just a building, no matter how beautiful. A church is the people gathered in the name of Jesus Christ. These wonderful portraits, done by church member Angela Springfield, like the bikes and presents that you all have provided, are all about the people of God. Both those who serve and those who are served are the family of God, gathered in our sanctuary narthex. Along with the symbols of our faith and artifacts of our heritage, the portraits and the gifts show the world who we really are at St. Stephen Presbyterian—people gathered in every way and by every means to give glory to God.