“Our mission is simple: We love God. We value people. We grow in our gifts. We reach out to the world.”
June 9, 1030 AM
I arrived in my athleisure attire with about five minutes to spare. Although once again, I could have been 10-20 minutes late and I wouldn’t have missed much. We stood and sang three long songs, while the words flashed up on the screen on one side of the altar area. Several people raised their hands and semi-danced. The woman in front of me turned toward the wall and swayed with her arms outstretched. I was a little worried we were gonna sing for another hour, but after the third song, the pastor arrived (coming from another location) and things started rolling along.
After a prayer, he said we were going to receive communion. With no liturgy or even any explanation, he handed out the baskets of crackers and communion cups to ushers who brought us these elements. He told us to wait until all had been served and then we would partake together. When everyone had their stuff, the pastor read a short paragraph from 1 Corinthians. And then another from…not sure where, as there was no order of service in the bulletin. Nothing to tell me where we were in the service. Anyway, in only a couple of sentences, this is what I heard: “Jesus told us to do this, in remembrance of Him.” That’s all we got about the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. I understand that it may not be considered a “sacrament” in some churches, but regardless, it should always be accompanied by an explanation of what and why we’re doing this. It kind of bothered me that the Pastor just assumed everyone understood the ritual.
Anyway, the pastor then read the book, Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss. Apparently, it’s his tradition to read the WHOLE book for graduating seniors. Then, he called up the young woman and her family, friends, etc and he gave a blessing over her. This was all well done.
After about ten minutes of announcements, which involved two videos, he called for ushers to take up the offering. After a full hour, he finally settled into the sermon. And he didn’t shorten it one bit. He even showed a film clip from the movie Rudy. It was a bit after noon when he finally announced the closing song. Everyone stood and some raised their hands again. When the song ended, he went into a long, long prayer saying “Hallelujah, Lord, Hallelujah, Lord, Hallelujah Lord,” over and over again. At one point he explained that some might find this strange, but “we’re just praying.” I think he said that for my benefit. Although I wasn’t particularly wigged out by it, I did hear what might have been speaking in tongues. I knew what I was getting into, so I wasn’t shocked. It just sounded like people quietly praying in another language. No big deal.
The thing is, I liked this pastor. He seemed genuine and down to earth. He seemed to know and care about his flock. But with only about thirty people in attendance at a church that can hold many more, I wondered if he might have missed the class in seminary about keeping people’s attention. Usually, unless you’re VERY good, you have about ONE hour. After that, you lose them. A meaningful worship service can be conducted in an hour, maybe a little longer for communion. But when you go over an hour and a half, you’ve certainly lost me.
As to welcoming, well, they did that pretty well. The ladies at the doorway greeted me warmly. A disabled woman, named Terry, spoke with me at length in her wheelchair. Although she was difficult to understand, I think we actually had a nice conversation. And when the service finally ended, I stood up and ran to the exit. But I was held up by a kind usher who said, “the pastor’s coming to greet you.” So I waited another minute (what’s one more?) for him to reach the end of the aisle and speak with me. As I suspected, he seemed like a good guy. Overall, they PASSED the WELCOME TEST!