Does your church have a Fellowship Hall?
Growing up, the church and the school I attended were the same place. And one of the
little ironies of life was that Monday-Friday we had gym classes in the gym; but then on Sunday, the gym became the Fellowship Hall, only to go back to being the gym on Monday morning.
In the Fellowship Hall, we had coffee and a snack of some sort after church every Sunday, not to mention the occasional potluck dinners. Every Sunday, we gathered on one end of the gym, literally underneath one of the basketball hoops, for coffee and snacks, and of course fellowship.
Just about every church has a Fellowship Hall. Sometimes it is the school gym, other times it is the church basement; and then there are those churches that spend tens of
thousands of dollars to build themselves a Fellowship Hall, which occasionally can be even bigger than the sanctuary.
But do we have the right idea about the Fellowship Hall? For most churches, the Fellowship Hall serves to feed one of the myths about why people come to church: for
fellowship. The Fellowship Hall promotes the perception that the church is a club for members, who on one side of the building have their meeting in the worship service, and then proceed to the other side of the building for coffee and fellowship which may or may not include gossip.
But should the church really serve the purpose of fellowship and country club? There are cafes and meeting halls and stores which can all serve those same purposes of fellowship,
and would even include those who are not members of the church.
But might I suggest that we do away with the name Fellowship Hall for it is in fact a misnomer. For in the church, where does the real fellowship occur? Not over coffee and donuts discussing the weather; but on the other side of the building, gathered around Word and sacrament.
The believers gathered in the church around the Word of God and the sacraments, that is where the true fellowship is found. The church is the body of Christ, all people of all times and places gathered together for the sole purpose of hearing the Word and receiving the forgiveness of sins and the body and blood of Jesus.
That is the church at fellowship: singing hymns, hearing the Word, confessing sins and receiving absolution, praying together, kneeling at the altar to receive Jesus body and blood. The church at fellowship is nothing more than the church at worship.
So might I suggest that on Sunday, you refer to the sanctuary as the Fellowship Hall, and refer to that other side of the building as the gym or the kitchen or just as a large classroom; for the true fellowship has already occurred.