Today was my big day as a visiting musician at my friend's church down the road. This particular place was probably the best example I've seen of a church that is "churchy" in culture, as well as a wonderful place. Going into the building, the culture is apparent. It's a very old, beautiful building with pews, a gigundo pulpit, hymnals, the whole package.
The first service was the more traditional: the choir wore robes, and there were hymns and organ music. Most of the men wore suits and/or ties, and most of the ladies were dressed up. The second service was more contemporary. There were lots of kids & young families. The choir sang one song, but ditched the robes. The band did the rest of the music--that was my 'gig,' so to speak. It wasn't quite rockin', but definitely a couple notches up from the hymns.
The thing that made it a great place was that I could feel such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I could tell that appearance was a non-issue. I played one song with the choir in the traditional service, sitting in my jeans next to them in their robes, and no one batted an eye. I sensed a sincerity and humility that was wonderful & refreshing--one really could feel the love. If I weren't so into kick-ass rock & roll worship, I would probably go there too.
After church I headed up the road to the church where we've been going lately. Obviously I missed church itself, drumming at the churchy-church, but there was a newcomers' lunch and I wanted to join the Cat-Daddy and our friends for it. Our church is deliberate about being the opposite of churchy--ultra-casual dress, modern music, Starbucks coffee. The building is a converted warehouse, and the most formally anyone was dressed was dockers & a sweater. We ate sandwiches & chips and just talked about how the church works and what they're about. Lots of laughing.
This isn't becoming just a church blog, honest. Church has just been heavy in my mind lately, what with switching churches and all. It has been good to walk through this process with the Cat-Daddy as we came to the decision to leave our old church, and searched out our new one. Lots of discussions about what we think is healthy or unhealthy in a church, and figuring out those things that are important to us in finding our home away from home for our remaining 2 years here in New England.
Um, this sounds too...diplomatic. Without raking anyone over the coals, let me put it this way. At our old church there were some good people and grace was preached faithfully...but then in the day-to-day it didn't feel like it was lived out.
Too many controversies over stupid things, like if it's OK for Christians in general to watch an R-rated movie, or even PG-13 "in this day & age." Too much posturing and insecurity; people feeling the need to justify any behavior that's not the ideal "Christian position." A friend practically hung her head when she admitted that she watches the show "24." Another hemmed & hawed about having a glass of wine with dinner. Still another, knowing that one family doesn't participate in Halloween, dismissed her display of pumpkins and decorations as an obligation because the pumpkins, painted lovingly by a preschooler, were a gift.
Contrast this with the newcomers' lunch at the new church, where they made a point of saying that they're big on conveying the "big" doctines--our need for salvation, Christ's death on the cross, grace and all that, living in relationship with Christ--but that they don't fuss with the "little" doctrines, such as dancing, alcohol, political involvement, music, and the like. The areas where God gives us freedom to do or not do as He guides us.
As time goes on and we get settled in our new church, there probably won't be much to say about church, and that will be great. I can live without the controversy.