Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yet another church visit

I went to church again yesterday.

This time I continued with my plan to visit every church within walking distance of my home (walking distance defined as, oh, 20 minutes or so). This particular church has a "traditional" early service and then a contemporary service. I chose the early service, as the traditions can be a little more interesting to me than the familiar contemporary style.

Turns out that, when you do this bifurcating of traditional and contemporary, you get all the old people in one service, all the young'uns in the other. The congregation was almost entirely elderly folks in suits. The smell of perfume suffused the atmosphere of the sanctuary.

A fairly large sanctuary, the 50 to 60 attendees sat almost entirely in the back half of the church. The worship had an old time tent-meeting feel! An old fellow with a great voice led us in the singing (he reminded me of George Beverley Shea), to the accompaniment of a sort of honky-tonkin' piano that sounded almost like one of those old player pianos in Western saloons (in the movies, anyway).

We sang "Power in the Blood" ("There is power power wonder working power / in the blood of Jesus") and a typically lugubrious "Old Rugged Cross."

Now, the walls of the sanctuary were stenciled with life-size images of comic-book superheroes: Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Captain America. It seems the preacher was in the midst of a preaching series called "Superheroes of the Bible." This week's superhero was the good Samaritan.

The pastor was a big disheveled emotional guy who reminded me of an old friend of mine. I liked him immediately. His sermon was introduced by a video (oh, the ever-presence of screens, screens everywhere . . . I vote for a trend to de-technologize church!) which told the parable of the good Samaritan with a grinding guitar accompaniment that struck me as odd after the all the old-school hymn singing. Anyway, the sermon was a heart-felt plea for compassion and generosity, with the good Samaritan as our model.

I got to thinking how nice it would have been to just sing the songs, and even a bunch more, then maybe hear the reading of the parable and pray for one another, and then have lunch. Is all this sermonizing really all that important? Based on my experience lately, I'd have to wonder what good it's all doing. Not that I'd argue against anything this preacher said. And I have to admit, I'm not nearly as compassionate and generous as the Samaritan in the parable was. Not. That dude puts me to shame. Which is, I think, sort of the point.

Well, I'm all sermoned out, maybe. I've got plans to visit another church next week, and undoubtedly will hear another sermon that pivots on a preacher-ly "illustration," a personal story, a YouTube video, and a charge to the congregation. Is it wrong for me to just want to quiet down, think, pray, and maybe wait on God for a little while. How busy and bustling church is, and then how like a classroom full of bored students and a teacher who simply seems to be trying his best to rouse a roomful of sleepers.


Glynn said...

I'm beginning to think that with all this traditional - contemporary - eclectic - ancient- modern worship forms that we care far more about what's important to us and a lot less about what's important to God. And I didn't think you could hold a worship without a screen.

nance marie said...

oh no! are they screening at church now? i thought it was just at the airports!

looks like there is a need for a middle-age church goers meeting time.

what about wonder woman?

i vote for singing.

old folks get up early...and then nap.

you make me want to go to church...kinda sorta.


Mark Babikow said...

I think that was the point....but I love the description you give of the experience. I felt like I was there...thanks a lot. I do feel guilt personally when I am so frustrated with church...but I think the quieting down/waiting on God thing is actually really....I want to say spiritual...or pleasing to God....but I know I don't mean that. I just listened to something that was emphasizing the sacraments as gifts God has given to experience something from Him that is les dependent upon how w do it, and is more of a receptive act. I kind of like that.

Bob said...

Mark, the sacramental church might have more of the quiet reverence I seem to be longing for, the opposite end of the spectrum from many evangelical churches in my experience. To be receptive we might have quiet down, so that church is to less a hubbub of advice, advertising, and admonishment.

On the guilt thing, I understand. I think I'm just trying to get real about church, yet not be harsh and hyper-critical about it (I know I have been at times). I don't have a church-home right now, and I'm looking around at what's out there, and commenting on what I see.