Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Stephen Blenkush and I have been called to serve as the pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Pequot Lakes.

I started this new call back in February and I am now in the process of getting situated and slowly acquainted with the good folks at Our Savior's Lutheran. I hope you will consider joining us some Sunday morning for worship if you do not have a church home at this time.

For the past 30 years, I have taken a walk every Sunday morning. After offering a benediction, I walk from the chancel to the narthex (church talk meaning from the front of the church to the back). It is often a short walk, but it can be exceedingly painful.

Inside the chancel, or altar rail, life is ordered and poised. Hours and hours of preparation have gone into making the service full of warmth and dignity so that God may be worshiped. It is here that the scriptures are read and the communion table and baptismal font exhibit God's grace and providence.

Together we will sing and offer prayers. Together God's word is shared and affirmed. Life is supported and reflected upon by the traditions of the church and the Christian faith.

But after 50 to 60 minutes have passed, I lift my arms with a benediction, promising the blessing of God for the coming week. Then I go to the narthex to greet those who have gathered to worship as they leave to be Christ in the world.

In the narthex, life is different. Those who have worshiped make a disorderly re-entry into the world of muddled marriages, midlife boredom, adolescence confusion, ethical ambiguity and emotional stress. In the narthex, I don't hold the cup of the Lord's Supper. Instead I shake the hands of the man whose wife recently died and the woman whose husband left her for a new model.

In the narthex I do not hold the infant for the waters of baptism, but look into the eyes of the mother whose teenage daughter is full of rebellion. The hands that just held the scriptures now touch the hands of those who are tense with anxiety, fear and pain.

As I stand in the narthex, I know that in the days that lie ahead there will be deaths no one expected, accidents not thought possible, illness that defy diagnosis and conflicts no one anticipated. But I also know, and more importantly, trust, that in the days ahead there will be joy, peace and many, many blessings.

The narthex, like life, is a mixture of good and bad, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow. And because of this paradox, I often wonder what the narthex of life would be like without what happens in the chancel?

Years ago I came across a bumper sticker put out by a local Presbyterian church that had the simple statement: "Tough Week? We're Open Sundays!"

It's true, life in the narthex and beyond can be challenging. And because it is, I give thanks to God for the opportunity to gather in the chancel and hear the Good News to get me through another week.

Come, join us.