I have no doubt that Mindy and I were the oldest people in the sanctuary. There have been Sunday worship services in the last year when we've been among the youngest in the building, and when that was the case we always felt like it was a little sad. Our guess of the average age at the service we attended this past Sunday would be about 21. Being the oldest people at Livingwater in Berkeley was kind of cool.
Livingwater meets in the afternoons at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. According to the website the 3:30 pm service is the college service, which amused me a little when I entered the 1:30 pm service and noticed that most everyone looked like they were of college age. It might not be worth noting that we were among the few Caucasians in a congregation made up primarily of Asians, but I'm noting it anyway.
Studying the website a little more later I found that they encourage freshman students to attend the later service, and that the earlier afternoon service is primarily attended by upper class students and recent graduates. (There is also a morning worship service in Alameda that seems to have more age diversity, considering the fact that service includes a children's ministry.)
We were attending the service with Shaina and Stefan, currently students at U.C. Berkeley and formerly a regular part of Healdsburg Community Church. Our visiting theme this month is going to church with former youth from my former churches. Livingwater is where Stefan has been attending for the last four months. Shaina started at Berkeley in January and hasn't yet found a church, so this was a first visit for her, too.
The screen in the front of the sanctuary encouraged people to pray from 1:20 - 1:30 pm in preparation for the service, but most people seemed to be chatting amiably. Stefan warned us the church wouldn't start on time because they ran on Berkeley time. He told us all the classes at Berkeley started about ten minutes later than the scheduled time, allowing everyone to be there. Shaina concurred. But the service was only seven minutes late in starting, not ten.
The service opened with choruses -- not surprisingly all the music was choruses -- with a competent worship team with guys playing the instruments and a couple of young women singing. At one point during worship, the leader asked the congregation to raise their hands in praise, and about half of the congregation did.
One of the staff pastors gave the announcements, reading the three announcements off his phone. He introduced a mission team that will be going Cambodia and Thailand. Wearing matching shirts, they performed a dance to "Open the Eyes of My Heart" (whether in Khmer or Siamese, I have no idea). As a prayer was offered for the team, who will be leaving on Saturday, and the congregation was asked to reach their hands toward them in blessing. The offering was taken immediately after, with ushers giving plain white envelopes for those who wanted to contribute to the mission team along with or instead of to the general fund.
The executive pastor of the Berkeley congregation gave the sermon (from the website I noticed five people on the staff, including a director of children's ministry in Alameda). The text of the sermon was I John 3: 10 - 16, in a series titled "God is Love." The pastor focused on the inconsistency of hate with the Christian life. He recalled working with an angry chef in a restaurant during his college years. The chef seemed to hate him for reasons beyond his comprehending. And he had to deal with feelings of hate for that man. He encouraged forgiveness and imitation of Christ's example of sacrifice. At the sermon's end, he encouraged people who had a hard time forgiving to come forward to pray, and a few people did.
Mindy and I spent time on the U. C. Berkeley campus prior to meeting with Shaina and Stefan. We saw a number of signs for Christian fellowships, but one hears of a great deal of hostility toward the doctrine and values of the Christian faith in classes and in the environment of schools in the U.C. system. It was good to be with a couple of Berkeley students we knew (and a lot of students we didn't know) honoring Christ. It's almost enough to make old people like us invite kids onto our lawn.
Service Length: 1 hour 29 minutes
Sermon Length: 41 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Greeting time early in the service, visitors encouraged to fill out cards available from designated people near the doors of the sanctuary
Our Rough Count: 150
Probable Ushers' Count: 175
Snacks: none that we saw
Songs: Your Love Never Fails, His Glory Appears, Christ is Enough, At the Cross
Miles to place: 63
Total California Miles: 5,542