01 October, 2006

The Church-Hunting Chronicles, Part One: The Yellow Card

This Sunday morning started off much like any other Sunday morning. Various alarms were set for various times and after the fifth or sixth alarm went off, we finally rolled, bleary eyed, out of bed.
Everything was on schedule until of course it came time to put the cats away in their cat room before we left for church. The situation was quickly rectified and we left for church.
We had decided last night to try out the church that's right next door to the house we may hopefully end up buying, so here it is, your synopsis for the Church-Hunting Chronicles, Part One.**

Full Gospel Assembly - The Yellow Card:
Oi. Vey.
I could summarize it all in that phrase and let you draw your own conclusions, but where would the fun be in that? Let me start by saying that being at this church made us miss our home church even more than we already do.

Beginning with music. Music at CLC has seen some transitions in recent weeks, from a 'full-service' worship team, to the dedicated sincerity of a few individuals God has called to remain faithful to providing worship leadership. Worship has been simplified, fruitful, and appreciated.

Music this morning at FGA reminded me of a band one might find on the D Stage at a small country fair in the backwoods of West Virginia (and we can almost say we know, now that we've been to the backwoods of West VA). I may be exaggerating (but only slightly) when I say that all that was missing was the washboard and the possum hats. One woman on piano, one man on bass, one man on guitar (country TWANG geee-tarrr). The pastor started out the singing (chorus books, hymn books, and overhead machine in sight but not in use). Then he suddenly walked away and a lady took over. Now I'm not necessarily doubting the sincerity of this lady, but some people were just meant to be solo singers. Or perhaps not singers at all. It was awful! I couldn't even look at Luke! I was trying to concentrate on figuring out the lyrics to the Old Time Revival Favourites, but it just wasn't working. And it went on forever, and ever, and ever! But I digress; I needed to make an important point about this lady's singing. Seriously, she should be commanding an army overseas! Because I'm sure they could hear her from where she was standing this morning! It was 'singing' only because it followed some sort of 'tune.' To the uninitiated, it could've easily been interpreted as yelling.

Between every song there was an equally exuberant chorus of hallelujahs and amens and thank you Jesuses, all said in a manner to rival the 'ohm mani padme ohms' of any Buddhist church. We decided we had accidentally stumbled on the Full Gospel (and Did We Forget to Mention Pentecostal) Assembly. It was a bit crazy.

Well, the music finally ended (I was sitting there wishing I could take pictures to send back home) and then it was time for the special number. I don't remember the name of the guy who was going to sing, but he was also the geeee-tarrrrr player and had this crazy beard. (Are there such people as Pentecostal Hippies?) Anyway, he got up to sing, but something happened with the tape ("technical difficulties") and it never panned out. I think we were saved from some early 80s revival-style tune.

Prayer time was a concert of prayer (which I've participated in before, but never during a Sunday morning service). And guess who we could hear praying the loudest? (And she STILL sounded like she was singing).

After that, the preaching. The sermon started out okay. Beginning of Jeremiah 18 - the Potter and the clay. It was only about halfway through the sermon that we realized when he had earlier asked us to open our Bibles, he had actually forgotten his on his chair and was just now going to get it. It was then that the sermon took a sort of, how shall I say it? Downward spiral, of sorts. He concluded by implying that as Christians we have a choice about whether or not we want to be clay on God's potter's wheel. We can get off any time we choose (although doing so won't allow God to form you into what He wants you to be). Hm.

Oh, and about the yellow card. We had hardly come in and sat down before the pastor came over and handed me an envelope. He introduced himself and told us there was yellow card in the envelope and could we fill it out and put it in the offering plate. No problem. And hey, free pen! Did you read that, KB?? Free pen! Just like the ones we always used to get in the mail, only it actually had the name of the church and address instead of the name of the pen and 'your organization's name here' written on it! AND, the envelope was pre-printed with service times on it, AND we got two free blue ribbon bookmarks - complete with, you guessed it - the FGA info all over it! No sign of a doctrinal statement, but hey, let's not scare people away...

The yellow card was completed. In the offering plate it went. The ushers handed it directly to the pastor up front who pocketed it just before starting his sermon. He also proceeded to introduce us just before the whole prayer time started (we were standing up already of course). At the end, not very inconspicuously, he pulled the card out of his pocket to double check our names before he went to greet everybody at the back. Note to self: don't be so hasty with the yellow card filling.

I'm not sure I'm missing much in my synopsis here. We decided that these people were either white people born the wrong colour in the wrong state, or else they had all gone on a missions trip to Mississippi 'some years back' and were now trying to emulate what they'd heard in their own services. I wonder if at Pentecostal seminaries, when pastors take homiletics classes, if they're taught that instead of saying, 'um' or 'er' when you don't know what to say, you should say AMEN!! or HALLELUJAH! or I CAN'T HEAR YOU BROTHER LOWELL!

Now again, they were sweet people. We felt like as visitors and young people we were sort of an anomaly there. There were three junior high-ish kids there and us. There's a very good chance that nobody else was under 60.

Probably next week, we'll try some place else.

**Now, we went to this church this morning fully aware that we probably wouldn't find the perfect church right off. And we realize that perhaps there are those for whom these events occur every Sunday. But for us it was quickly obvious, that this is NOT the right church for us. The worship may have been completely sincere in its own right, but we were more than just a little out of our element. Like wild boars in a palace maybe.

Stay tuned for more Sunday Reports.


shelley said...

Did it post? did it not post? I just wrote a comment, and I have no idea if it went. Anyways, essentially the idea of it was that i love this. I love reading your stories. You've got a good writing style. Glad to hear you and Luke are having some adventures...and I love you guys!


Kristi said...

So, no RT license, but what about the pretzel making license? It's all clear to me, you are to start a pretzel factory in Maine. Loved the church story. I can picture it all, and B&B thought that recent missionary was funny! How did you make it through? And, they have the visitor welcome packet with pen that we never got together - I don't know, maybe they deserve second consideration.

bren j. said...

A pretzel factory? Hm. No...I don't think so. There is this really great old and empty garage though that would make a great coffee shop, but I would need a business partner.
Oh, KB, you can't choose a church based on the visitor packet! Even IF the pen is nice! On the other hand, they DID give us blue ribbon bookmarks.