I hate church hunting.
Selecting a church is a big deal and (in my opinion) requires much consideration and time, if one is to really integrate with the church community and be able to minister from his/her gifts and all that. Sort of like dating before marriage. Sort of.
Some people like dating, and it does have its place, but I prefer working from within marriage...so church hunting is a rather painful thing for me. You can't really skip the dating aspects, because that would be a little forward and would probably freak people out. No, you have to take it in order, and endure the chatting, and newcomer welcomes, and asking loaded questions to see where they really stand on certain things, since statements of belief can sound glorious and right up your alley, but then you find out the finer points are right out for you. Similar to the college girl who says "I wanna marry a man who's sold out to Christ, and really seeks him and can be a spiritual leader for our family," but then finds out that her really sold-out man is all of those things, but also disappears entirely during the college basketball season (where she hates sports), and thinks that she should stay home and raise 10 babies when she was thinking 2 would be plenty and she'd like to work after a while. She's better suited to a guy who is not only sold out, but also happens to want the same things out of life that she does.
That, but with church. Which brings us to the Cat Daddy's and my style. We tend to gravitate toward places where the target demographic (I love that term) is the young and hip 20-something. Ish. But we don't want all-out anarchy just for the sake of being different. The non-negotiables still have to be there as far as Biblical teaching goes (Jesus, our need for salvation, his death and resurrection, grace and not works, etc.). Further, now that His Highness is in the picture the kids' stuff is more of a factor. And there must be an overall feel of ragamuffin-ness, where I can be a little crazy and people won't balk. Because I just am.
I haven't even mentioned denominations--primarily because I think, especially as time goes on, that while a church's denomination might clue you in to some of the doctrinal nuances, it doesn't necessarily tell you anything at all about their overall feel. In the past 7 years I think I've been a part of churches in 2-3 denominations (this is including the historically-Baptist church that was comprised mainly of closet charismatics--very nice ones, I might add), along with 2 nondenominational churches, and my tastes haven't fluctuated THAT much. This is why I think the way I do about denominations.
So, today's experience was a local Foursquare church, which I consider along the charismatic-ish lines. The whole baptism-in-the-Holy-Spirit, speaking in tongues, physical healing-thing. More or less. Totally met the non-negotiables, and has a team-oriented focus, in that the members do a lot of initiating the various ministries and community outreach. And about half the men were wearing some form of Hawaiian shirt. Very cool and oh-so-California. We attended with some friends of ours who live in the local area, which made it somewhat less uncomfortable than usual.
Still, I sat there with the same pit in my stomach as I do every first Sunday in a new place, over-analyzing every song, word spoken, and outfit worn to get a feel for the place. Then I realized what I was doing & tried to stop. Then I thought I should be able to do it because dangit, I'm in transition. So I went to the bathroom during greeting time, didn't fill out a connect-flap, and eschewed the candy-containing welcome packets. I shook hands with the pastor (who seemed to be a very reasonable person) and answered all questions non-committally.
The sermon (message?) was fine. They emphasized the word "saved," they mentioned healing and such a couple times, and there was an encouragement of being all fired up in one's Christian walk. General idiosyncrasies you'll find in any charismatic-type church. But nothing terribly extreme--no one was screaming out in tongues, running up & down the aisles giggling, or passing out the lap cloths that they cover the ladies' legs with after being slain in the Spirit. Which I say with fondness and/or affection, because all it really means is that I'm getting better at observing people's denominational bents.
The worship team was big, as far as worship teams go. They had drums, percussion, guitars, bass, and several vocalists. They even had a brass section, for crying out loud. All in all over 10 people on stage. The music would be classified as "contemporary," but only in the same sense that Amy Grant and Twila Paris were contemporary in the 80's. Definitely not the edginess I've become accustomed to in the past couple years. I didn't know any of the songs, but they were more updated than the standard double-time choruses I've heard whenever I've gone to a charismatic(ish) church.
I have decided that when observing people doing spiritual and/or churchy things from an outsider's perspective, the spiritual and/or churchy things almost always come across as kind of hokey. I'm pretty sure this is all-but-unavoidable. Each church has its own little rituals and inside lingo, which are rightfully aimed at its members/regular attenders, and if you're not accustomed to them they can seem a little bizarre. Sort of like watching another couple call each other "pookie" and "muffin," and wanting to retch, while thinking nothing of calling your own partner "snoogums" and "puppykins." So I felt awkward, for example, when prompted to give the Lord a clap (I never clap for God. Long story.). But not offended or put-off.
Afterward we picked up His Highness from the nursery and bade our friends goodbye. Once we were in the car, the Cat Daddy asked what I thought. I replied by asking what he thought. He said "I loved it!" and I said "liar." Seriously though, I said that if we found no better fit, I could come here with confidence that it's a fairly healthy place and wouldn't harm us...but that it was the first Sunday and we should look at least a few more places to see what's out there. But no, it didn't scream "church home" to us, so the hunt will continue.
Thankfully, the hunt for good Mexican food has been infinitely easier. Today we tried another little local place, and again I nearly wept for joy at the sheer deliciousness of it all. The approach is straightforward, really--to find good Mexican food, go to places near Mexico. If you find real Mexican people running the shop, it's practically a shoo-in.
If only church were as simple...