What’s worship like at Bethesda?
Our worship service is based on the ancient Christian pattern: We gather, sing, hear readings from the Bible and engage those texts in the sermon, respond faithfully, pray, and share the common meal known as Holy Communion/Eucharist/Lord’s Supper, and are sent out in joy to love God and serve as the Body of Christ in the world. A printed bulletin contains everything you would need to follow along and join in; a big screen up front also scrolls through the service to help those at home join in by Zoom.
Lutherans love to sing! Martin Luther is credited with having said something like, “The one who sings prays twice.” Hymn-singing, chanting, special musical offerings in different styles are all chosen to support a theme set out in our scripture readings. And the really great thing is that you don’t have to be a “singer” to join in. The psalmist wrote “make a joyful noise unto the LORD”, not a perfectly beautiful one!
But Bethesda is blessed with terrific music every week. Vic Peters is our regular organist/pianist, and oh, can he swing those hymns! You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced him playing the keyboard with his left hand and his trumpet with the right! Jeff Molitor brings his trumpet and flugelhorn (look it up!) every week, and his “Ave Maria” is to die for. Judy Rasmussen joins in with her flute, and Pastor Heidi sometimes picks up a tambourine or red scratchy rhythm sticks. Play an instrument? Why not bring it along — the Bethesda Band is always ready to welcome other musicians.
How long is the service?
Normally it’s about an hour long. Technically the start time is 10:15 a.m., but we usually have about 10 minutes of announcements at the beginning, so the service usually ends by 11:30 a.m. We usually stick around in the pews for a few minutes to listen to the postlude, because Vic and Jeff and Judy are worth it!
Coffee hour usually wraps up by 12:30p.m., before the Westway Korean Church comes in to set up for their 1:00 p.m. service.
Is there a cost involved?
Members of the congregation do support the salaries and expenses of running the church with our financial gifts. But we ask that our guests not put anything into the offering plates until that feels good to you to do so. Especially not your first times!! We want to be here for you and hope that you experience something of the aroma of grace that keeps us coming back. Know that many of our members give on a monthly basis, so we don’t think anything weird of each other for not putting anything in the offering plates! Jeepers! Some of us even give online through Bethesda’s Vanco donation page, so seriously — let this be on us.
What if I’m not sure about Christianity?
You are absolutely welcome. We all have questions about different aspects of our sacred texts, liturgical traditions, Christian history, and centuries-old creeds. You don’t have to believe anything at all. The very first followers of Jesus didn’t quiz people; they simply said, “Come and see.” Bring your doubts, your questions, your wounds, your hunger for….something. Listen to the nudgings in your gut — sometimes that really is the voice of the Holy. If you want to learn more, we’d be honored to walk with you on your spiritual journey for however long seems good and right to you.
Do I need to be baptized in order to participate in Communion?
It was a tradition in the early Church and still is in many congregations that new Christians wait to take communion until they had been baptized. When it was illegal to be Christian (and the punishments pretty gruesome), it made sense to help folks really know what they were getting into before risking their lives by professing faith in Jesus the Christ.
But Jesus didn’t put restrictions on who could or could not share in that last Passover meal, and we don’t restrict that welcome, either. If you have to have a complete understanding of what happens at that table, NONE of us would be able to commune!! If you have to be living a sinless life, well, that would be a pretty lonely meal. Jesus IS the host, and extends that invitation to you, as you are.
Do my children need to be a certain age before communing?
Nope. Different churches have different practices with little ones. At Bethesda we welcome everyone to the table. Children know when they belong or don’t belong. When that little hand reaches out, we will make sure that the Body of Christ is placed in it. As soon as they are able to take the elements, they are welcome to participate fully. Wouldn’t it be great for a baby born today to grow up never knowing a time when they were not allowed to take communion? Martin Luther said something like, “The one communes worthily who believes these words: ‘given and shed for you.'” It’s a gift. Period. And who understands a free gift better than the littlest in our midst? Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:14)
Can I just sit in the back row anonymously?
Yep. If you get here early enough! Lutherans do love the back rows of their churches!
But seriously, we aren’t going to call on you, or introduce you so that a horde of folks descend upon you like a plague of locusts! Our pastor might approach you if she sees you before worship begins, but that’s just to welcome you and make sure you know that you’re invited to participate in communion (remember, no prerequisites!). If you want to scoot out at any point in the service, that’s perfectly fine, too. Everyone is invited to our coffee hour in the downstairs Fellowship Hall, at which time I’m sure the locusts will be tame, if chatty.
Another good option if you want to check us out before showing up on a Sunday would be to find us on YouTube and take a look at one of our worship services. Just know that there are a bunch of “Bethesda Lutheran Churches” nationwide. I’m sure their services are nice. Plug in “Mountlake Terrace” and “livestream”, and you’ve got a better chance at finding ours.
How do you handle Covid precautions during worship?
Tenderly and with great compassion and longing. We have close to 100% vaccination against the virus, so for a while in the summer of 2021 we were excited to be without our masks. We now ask that everybody wear their masks and maintain 6′ of social distance between households or “pods”. We do ask folks to sign in for contact tracing in the entry way. We have hand sanitizer in every pew. There’s a part in the service called the Sharing of the Peace. Pre-Covid, we would circulate sharing either handshakes or hugs, and we really miss that human contact still. Instead you’ll see a lot of peace signs, two-handed heart shapes, or a hand to the heart as we say, “God’s peace be with you.” Pastor Heidi has been wearing her mask pretty much throughout the service, even though as the preacher/presider she is permitted to take it off while speaking. She does use the hand sanitizer before conducting the Communion portion of the service. We try to keep that 6′ of space around us as we come forward to receive the elements — we don’t all rush the altar at once!! By stretching out our arms in front of us, we can connect with close to 6′ of distance as the bread and wine (or grape juice) is shared. The wine (or grape juice) is offered in small plastic cups which you place into a lined basket for disposal after communing.
Do I have to be vaccinated in order to attend in person?
No, but we would ask that you be extra cautious about keeping your mask on and maintaining distance from others. A couple of us are medically unable to be vaccinated, and we are all committed to keeping them safe. If local transmission rates get out of hand we would hate to have to close our doors, but we would do so if we have to again. If you have refrained from getting vaccinated by choice, please consider either getting the vaccine or joining us by Zoom.