Sep 7, 2008

Church Hunting--The Return...

Yes folks, today marked our second full Sunday in Cheyenne, and the first Sunday that we got our butts outta bed & went to church. In a movie theater. At the mall.

There are some fantastic advantages to this setup. To begin with, we arrived late. We were not late on purpose, but it occurred to me on the way there that it was probably a good tactic if we were going to keep up our bad-church-visitor-ness. I think I will try to keep being very-slightly-late until I get motivated to show up on time. But guess what? When you go to church at the mall on Sunday morning there's always plenty of parking, no matter how late you are.

Second, I don't know what the normal rental plans for movie theaters are, but this church occupied at least three "screens" that I'm aware of. Big church of course was in one. His Highness went to play with the toddlers in the front area of another, and in the process of finding the toddler room we managed to peek in on the kidz. They really spelled it that way on the signs, too. Because Z's are cool. That's all to say that there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

I was only mildly disappointed to find the concession stand closed. I think that would be a fantastic lure for unsuspecting seekers--free candy! It could be that there was free candy for those who showed up on time, but we'll never know. Unless we decide to show up on time, I guess.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, Cheyenne's population is very diverse in its occupation of the hipness & coolness spectrum. Up to now, we'd seen quite a variety of folks, but now we know that approximately 85% of the hip & cool people (the Christian ones, anyway) go to this church, and that most of them sit in the front section where no one likes to sit during a movie because of neck strain. Since we were late, we had to rely on the ushers to find us 2 open seats, which happened to be right among the hip & cool people. I did feel a touch more hip & cool after that.

So the general feel of this church is hip & cool, and not churchy at all, which as I've said before, is where we tend to gravitate. Rockin' music, casual feel, and all that. No one even turned to look when I got out my string cheese for a mid-morning munch. Most everyone was dressed casually, although I did notice a few ladies doing the nice-sweater-and pants thing, and one guy in the hip & cool section had a full suit on. Which was kinda cool. As I glanced around I spotted a sufficient number of tattoos to feel comfortable. The pastor was, like, a walking advertisement for hip & cool. Shaved head, cool specs, appropriately-distressed jeans. I thought I saw an earring in his left cartilage, but he had the cool earpiece-microphone in the way, so I couldn't tell for sure. He was also a walking advertisement for the church, as his (very hip & cool) shirt had the name of the church on it.

So, music--cool. Communion right after music--an interesting variation, but fine by me. They passed around these cool trays which held the cups and the bread, and the "bread" was a sort of hybrid between the thin wafers and Chiclets. I gotta say, I like when churches use real bread (French--yum), but since it's really about Jesus and not luscious loaves I got over it real quick. Besides, I still had my string cheese and was waiting until the message to break it out.

The message...sort of made me tired. The theme started out as "Lost," and finding one's place in God's kingdom, but then the pastor talked about the parable of the sown seeds, with the 4 different results, and whatnot. Which is an awesome passage, and I get what he was saying, I think. I'm not sure how it related to the "Lost" theme, but what it boiled down to was "Here are 4 different people. Don't be the bad three, be the good one!" and the he sort of left it there. And I sort of felt like saying, "How do I become the good one?" And anytime I'm left alone with that question it leaves me with the impression that I'm supposed to arbitrarily try harder, and the message of trying harder never sits well with me.

Now let me qualify this and say that I'm not in the best of places emotionally right now, so my perspective is likely skewed somewhat. Or a lot. If I cornered the pastor and started quizzing him about it, that would be rather presumptuous of me. But if I did it anyway, and if he overlooked my presumption, it's entirely possible that I'd hear God's grace coming thru loud & clear. Or maybe he's going to address it next week, I dunno. Plus, unless you're attending someone's personal manifesto lecture, I don't think it's wise to put a label on their theology based on one Sunday morning message.

Which brought us to the end of the service, the altar call which is possibly weekly but I don't know yet, and the shuffling to the entrance withOUT our feet sticking to the floor, which is almost unheard of in a movie theater and entirely pleasant. In going out we caught sight of the folks who sat in back (up in back--stadium seating, you know), and found a diversity more representative of the dynamic that is Cheyenne. Which tells me there are lotsa different types of folks who go to this church, which is a good sign to me. Letting people be themselves is a good thing, and different types of people all being comfortable together is even better.

We were supposed to get t-shirts for being new, but they were out. Truthfully, I was a little disappointed about that, because all the church tees I saw were really cool, and I can always use a cool tee.

Now the main drawback to doing church in a movie theater in the mall is simply the state of being a port-a-church. As we picked up His Highness we were both acutely aware of how much work these folks are putting into the weekly setup & teardown. The schlepping of the drums alone is quite a task. Which I believe is why they're not staying in the theater for long. They are currently working to get their new property ready, and at some point will be moving in there permanently. I have no idea what it looks like (although the chairs will be red--the pastor demo'd one today as part of his message illustration), but I know the relief of going from port-a-church to permanent home. It's nice, and I'm glad for them.

Anyway, I think we both liked it enough to come back, but I think personally I've got a long way to go as far as getting fully back into the church groove. Maybe not before I start attending regularly, but probably before I get solidly plugged in. I felt like I had a deer-in-the-headlights look about me for the first 10 minutes or so (Wait--what? I'm standing, and there's music, and I know I'm supposed to do something. Oh right, sing), before I relaxed a little into the worship songs. Maybe it's just the disequilibrium of being in a new place. Or the first-trimester-queasiness. Or the perceived pressure of finding a place to belong in an area where I don't quite feel like I belong. Who knows, but I think next time I'll bring along some Tums...


TulipGirl said...

The "deer in headlights" feeling. . . Totally get it. . . It took me a long time to get past that point when we moved back to the States. God was very gracious, very patient with us. . . But, it took us a long time--a really long time--to once again be in church and belong and. . . I'm very thankful to be where we are now.

Grace and hope,

linda t said...

We have friends that live in Cheyenne.
Would you like their info so you can get a church referral from them?
They are Dan & Michelle Rowe. They use to go to ODF back in the McDowell Days... both sang on the worship team. Randy, Dan and Rand Mozingo sang together during the Hand in Hand years.
They have three boys... that are almost grown I think.
Let me know... they are a neat couple.