“YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BELIEVE IN ORDER TO BELONG. If you look at the gospel stories, we see doubters, seekers, and religious all following Jesus — before they believed.”
February 2, 2020 1030 AM
I was first attracted to this church’s name, then after reading about it, I became even more intrigued. They began formally worshipping in late 2017, and consider themselves specifically called to their college town. On their web page, they claim to be Gospel centered, reformed, missional and Presbyterian-“which simply means we are led by a team of elders and connected to other churches.” It means a bit more than that, but I think they’re trying to downplay the traditional church vibe. What really excited me about this church is their commitment to–wait for it–LITURGY!
Yay. Finally a contemporary church which hasn’t thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Their website explains: “Our worship is liturgical, which simply means a defined order of worship. Our services have a gospel rhythm: God calls us, we respond. He speaks, we listen…. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly as God invites us to come and fine rest in him…. We do take an offering every week, as our new relationship with God enables and empowers us to have a new relationship with all our possessions.” Based on these statements alone, I was excited to worship with Foundry Church.
I arrived to the beautiful old stone and wooden church with time to hit the bathroom. The greeters handed me a bulletin and welcomed me. I sat in the next to last row of chairs in the sanctuary which had one huge stained glass side window. Apparently, the former Presbyterian church had died out and gave its building and grounds to this new church plant. This younger group has modernized it by whitewashing the plaster walls, emphasizing three large dark wooden arches at the altar area. An foundry type symbol in the middle arch, gave the feel of a new age chapel of sorts. The musicians (guitar, drums, and piano) were practicing for the service while a number of people drank coffee, mingled and chatted in the foyer (narthex) and pew areas. The tall young pastor spoke to a couple in front of me for most of this gathering time.
The “worship guide,” as it was called, showed a meaningful flow of worship with these headings: “God Invites Us (gathering/greeting), God Forgives Us (confession/offering), God Speaks to Us (passing of peace/blessing children/announcements/prayers of the people, scripture/sermon), God Strengthens Us (communion), and God Sends Us (benediction). It all seemed very promising.
At almost 1040, the musicians led us in a lovely modern rendition of the opening song, All Creatures of our God and King, while the words flashed on the walls between the two outer wood arches. The pastor then greeted, welcomed us and made a few announcements. Probably in his thirties, he seemed nervous as he spoke hurriedly and somewhat disjointed, not fully finishing sentences before moving on to another one. I wanted him to slow down and just say one thing at a time. Or to say less and just point out the announcements which were printed in the “worship guide.”
During the times when he offered prayers, he also seemed rushed. I felt as though he had a discomfort with silence, which discomforted me. He also only used the term “Father,” in prayer, over and over, as if he didn’t have any other way to call God. It seems to me that one should occasionally use other endearing terms for God–perhaps “Holy Spirit,” “Jesus,” “Eternal King,” or “gracious and loving God,” or anything that might enhance our imagination of God, who cannot be fully described.
While the service had a worshipful flow, it was severely impeded during the God Speaks to Us section. First, we did the “Passing of the Peace,” which turned into a ten minute diversion while everyone got more coffee, chatted with their friends, and mingled around. I greeted the folks behind me, but no one else greeted me. Then, the pastor did a small blessing of the children before they scurried off somewhere. Then, dear God, he made more announcements. Not sure how this is all fell under the “GOD SPEAKS TO US,” section of worship. It seemed out of place and disruptive to me. Finally, he led “prayers of the people,” read the scripture, and followed with the sermon.
I was glad to see that he spoke from his prepared notes–probably reading them. This pastor would not do well “winging it,” so I appreciated his work behind the scenes. However, he probably spoke close to forty-five minutes. Unless you are a VERY GOOD SPEAKER, no one should speak more than thirty minutes, max. Actually, a twenty minute sermon is best, IMHO. It’s long enough to say one or two things really well. Save the rest for another week. It’s far better to give me one thing to chew on, to pray about, and to ponder; than to overload me with seven or eight talking points which I’ll forget the minute I leave the sanctuary. Needless to say, his sermon left me unaffected in any way.
After “God Speaks to Us,” which I’m not sure I heard, we entered “God Strengthens Us,” whereby we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. This was done using some liturgy but not the longer version used by most mainline churches. Again, if we had spent less time in greeting, announcements and sermon, we could have spent more time with the sacrament. It seems to me worship should always emphasize the sacred aspects over the mundane.
I went forward to receive the bread and the cup. After over and hour and a half, the service ended and I left. No one else greeted me. The pastor’s hurried manner made me feel anxious for him and for the congregation. His persona did not convey calmness or assurance. I’m sure with more experience and maturity, his style will develop. And to be honest, I was probably much like that when I was a younger pastor. But his manner and the fact that no one really spoke to me, means this church FAILED the WELCOME TEST.