Presbyterians Today

NOV-DEC 2018

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MOVED BY THE SPIRIT OUTREACH 12 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay Spiral walks create new Advent traditions Churches offer more stillness in a noisy season BY DONNA FRISCHKNECHT JACKSON and into a prayerful space — is laid out on the ground with evergreens. Votive candles line the circle, leading people to ponder and pray as they make their way to the center. While First Presbyterian's winter spiral is outside, Sashabaw creates its 30 feet by 30 feet spiral inside. "Thank goodness our pews can be moved," Sias-Lee said. "We have a small building and so the sanctuary is the perfect space." A s the rush to get to Christmas accelerates each year, with festive trees going up even before the Thanksgiving turkey is done cooking, churches are finding ways to preserve the contemplative stillness of Advent. Some are not giving in to the societal pressures of decorating the sanctuary until later in December, like Sashabaw Presbyterian Church in Clarkston, Michigan. The small congregation — 15 on the rolls and about 24 in weekly worship — won't be decking the halls until Dec. 20, says the Rev. Laura Sias-Lee, who prefers to observe Advent first. "We seemed to have lost Advent," she said, adding, "I often ask the question 'Do we want to celebrate Christ like the world does?' " In the early church, the season of Advent was more like a mini Lent, with Christians spending the season preparing with prayer and fasting. Eastern churches still call the season of Advent the "Nativity Fast," viewing the 40 days before Christmas as a time of abstinence and penance. At First Presbyterian Church in Barre, Vermont, the contempla- tive, expectant nature of Advent is captured by literally going for a walk — a winter spiral walk, that is. The spiral — like the church's labyrinth, which invites people to step away from the world's busyness The spiral is created by laying out a string pattern. Then real and fake evergreens are placed along the pattern. It is important to keep the spiral's path wide because of the candles, Sias-Lee says. "One year there was a gentleman with MS who insisted on walking the spiral without help, and he was flailing his cane," Sias-Lee said. "We haven't had any fires, but we do make sure there are fire LAURA SIAS-LEE Sashabaw Presbyterian Church in Clarkston, Michigan, creates an evergreen spiral in its sanctuary for Advent. Lit by candles, the spiral invites people to ponder, pray and prepare for Advent.

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