Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reports from the Church's Front Lines...

Here's a report of our initial experiences visiting churches over the past few weeks:
  • We have been to an Episcopal church, a non-denominational congregation, and a Lutheran church.
  • The Episcopal church was interesting to me not only because I have appreciated Prayer Book worship in the past, but also because this congregation runs a free medical clinic that serves our surrounding communities—an attractive missional ministry. We went to the early service, and I think the folks there were surprised to find visitors among them. It was a non-musical service, which in some ways was refreshing. Contemporary Christianity has so identified worship with music that it was nice to see a group that recognized the two are not the same. The rector's message was based on exegesis of a Biblical text and he was a good speaker. Though I wouldn't exactly call the message "evangelical," he communicated some true Biblical wisdom. The leaders and congregation performed the liturgy with order, joy, and a sense of shared community. We stayed for the coffee fellowship and met several folks who greeted us warmly and answered our questions. We liked the building, a quaint, lovely stone church in English country style.
  • The Non-Denominational church was a congregation where I formerly served, and we went back for Sunday worship on a special day in the life of the fellowship. Worship was led by a praise band—guitars, bass, keyboard, drums. We sang the usual contemporary choruses, until, at one point, the song leader announced with all seriousness that we were going to do a "really old" song that some might not know—and then he launched into "Our God is an awesome God." I'm glad to know we're keeping ancient traditions alive! It was communion Sunday, so we passed the bread and cups in trays. The youth pastor preached, using multimedia to introduce his theme and then exegeting a passage from Ephesians 4 with a strong moralistic emphasis. Their building is casual and utilitarian, plain with banners and a cross in the front of the sanctuary.
  • Today we attended the early service at a local Lutheran church. Once again, people seemed a bit surprised to see visitors, but they gradually approached and welcomed us. The building was architecturally pleasing, light and airy with a large foyer for fellowship that had a coffee cafe and outdoor patio. The sanctuary was also filled with light and configured so that one's attention was continually directed upward. (See the picture above for an exterior view.) The liturgy was simple, relaxed and refreshing, the music accompanied by piano. The congregation sang hymns and other responses, and a soloist performed as well. The pastor was a fine speaker, with a good sense of humor and connection to the congregation. He spoke on a Gospel passage, and once again, it was not overtly evangelical, but he brought out some of the text's pertinent points with skill and insight.
More reports to come...

1 comment:

Keith said...

Mike,
I know for a fact that the Non-Denominational church would love to see more of you and your family.

Really enjoyed my first visit to your blog.