On the Menu: out for dinner
I’m reading: Possession, by A.S. Byatt
When I was in college and, later, grad school, all my friends and I said the same thing: we would raise our kids to experience all different religions. However, here I am, Captain Zulu is now nine, yes, nine, and Ms Slinky is heading straight toward 6, and really, except for a couple of masses with my Mom or Mark’s Mom, and some sort of generic Christianity at the YMCA, they haven’t experienced anything. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor invited me to go to church with her and I thought, why not? And while I was there, I thought: I will take the kids to a variety of churches/places of worship around the area, maybe one a month, and when we get to the end, see what we think.
I would not exactly characterize this as a spiritual journey, but I wouldn’t not, either. I’m keeping an open mind, that’s all.
So this church, the Hope Community Church, is what people would probably call a mega-church. It’s enormous, and going in, you feel almost like it’s more like a gym or a community center than a church. There’s a huge church area with a choir and two levels of seating, downstairs and the balcony, there’s a cafe, a quiet area for reading, a place where you can sit to meet with a church person and talk about your life, an enormous children’s area with nursery, plus rooms for the older kids. You can drop your kids off for the service and then pick them up afterwards. Everything is computerized.
At first, I was going to sit in the cafe and read, but then I decided to go upstairs and listen to the service. The first half was almost entirely singing. The second half was the pastor, talking. Perhaps I went the wrong week; his sermon seemed to be almost entirely about how people should get more involved in the church: emotionally, spiritually, service-wise, financially. To be fair, every religious community has those kinds of talks, at least sometimes, so I didn’t hold it against him. I did get turned off when he said, “the government can’t fix a pothole” and a number of people in the congregation cheered. It occurred to me: maybe this isn’t the church for me.
As someone raised Catholic with extensive experience in Islam, one thing struck me very forcefully: there was almost no ritual involved in the service. That is, I think, what people who become protestants – some of them anyway – like about it, but it didn’t feel like church to me. It felt more like sitting around with some friends talking about church. It also felt a little like those religious programs I’ve occasionally flipped through on TV. Perhaps the singing at the beginning was a little bit ritualistic? I don’t know.
Also, because the sermon was mostly about people getting involved, and not really about the church’s views per se, I’m not sure where it stands on theological issues. They do have a whole ton of programs you can do to find that out, but I’m not intrigued enough to devote six Wednesday evenings in a row (or whatever it is) to finding out. My neighbor is very ‘what it says in the Bible’ although not in a crazy sense, so this is probably not the first church I would have chosen to visit.
Coming Up: a Quaker meeting (at least that’s the plan)