Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Society Church, Sacramento

"There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places."

This quote is from the Wendell Berry poem,""How to be a Poet (to remind myself)" ,which the guest speaker used to open his sermon at Society Church in Sacramento. That line seemed particularly appropriate in this place.
Entering the meeting place you'll see folding chairs, but you won't see stained glass depicting the Life of Christ or the Saints. You won't see any crosses or crucifixes on the walls. But there is plenty of art, most of it abstract. That's because they meet in a place call Beatnik Studios, a place available to rent for events that also serves as a gallery for artists. As the poet says, "There are no unsacred places."

We arrived about half an hour early, and we could hear the music from a bit down the street. Mindy liked that; she reminded her of going to a club. When we went inside, a couple of people assured us that the music was louder during the soundcheck than it would be in the service, which was not a big concern of ours. But we appreciated their sensitivity regarding visitors' ears. All of the members of the worship team played instruments; the lead singer played an acoustic guitar.  The rest of the team played an electric guitar, drums, and two keyboards.

Talking with Joel the architect before the service, we heard about the small groups that met during the week. One of the groups was concerned with God's use of the creative process. They were continuing a study that the pastor had been through recently on a book called "Art and Soul."

The service started a minute or two after nine, and after a few songs, a man with a quite full beard, shorts and a Giants cap introduced the monthly celebration of communion. In his introduction, he quoted both the Church Father, Tertullian, and the rock band Thrice ("Come All You Weary"). The bread and juice (no gluten-free bread mentioned) were served on a table set across two barrels. People took a piece of bread, dipped it into the cup of juice, and ate the morsel as they walked back to their seats as music played.

Following communion, there was a ten minute break when everyone was encouraged to greet one another. At this service, there is no offering taken, so this was also the time, we were told, to bring offerings and connection cards to the "black box" on the wooden structure near the entrance. Then other announcements: baby dedications on Mother's Day, small groups, a RiverCats game, and a restaurant meet-up that would also be a  fundraiser for a missionary headed to Black Forest Academy in Germany (some of my nieces and nephews went to that school).

I noticed that most everyone who spoke in a leadership capacity had visible tattoos, and more people used phones or tablets for the Bible readings -- one way of noting that the congregation was, as a whole, younger than Mindy and me.

Tim, the church's pastor, had been sick the week before, so he had brought in Jeremiah as a guest speaker. Jeremiah said he begins every day with a poem, which led to his use of the Berry poem. The sermon also used the Luke 7 passage about the woman who washed Jesus' feet. Jeremiah noted how the Pharisee saw only what was bad in the woman, while Jesus saw what was good. He said we should follow the example of Jesus. He said there are two universal truths for every person: 1) You are beloved and 2) You are a sinner. But he said we always need to get to point one before we deal, if ever, with point two. We need to see God's Image ("Imago Dei" was the Latin phrase he used).

He suggested we need to work to really "behold" all the people around us that are made in God's image. He gave six daily tips for doing so:
1) Pray every morning to see God in every one
2) Ask for the names of people like servers and customer service reps and use them
3) Become a waver
4) No more ATMs. Instead, go inside and meet tellers
5) Don't use the self-check. Instead, meet cashiers
6) Learn the names of your postal and package deliverers.

(By the way, I'm not giving up using Safeway self-checkout because then I'd see Nikki, who often supervises self-checkout, less)

Jeremiah urged us to see people as people rather than sinners or evangelism projects. He began the sermon by pointing out that the first verb connected with God was "create," and that God the Creator made us to be creators in His image.

The sermon was filled with cultural references, including "The Lion King," Ricky Gervais' "Extras" and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

Though Jeremiah was a guest speaker, his concern for our living out the image of God the Creator seemed to be a central part of the identity and mission of Society Church in Sacramento.
-- Dean
Service Length: 1 hour 37 minutes
Sermon Length: 34 minutes
Visitor Treatment: we were warmly greeted as we came in, and several people introduced themselves and chatted. All were encouraged to fill out "connection cards"
Our Rough Count:  40
Probable Ushers' Count: 65
Snacks: "we care about our coffee," Mindy was told. And it was very good coffee. No other food or drink visible
Songs:  There is a Fountain
             Forgetting my Sorrows
Miles to place: 121

Total California Miles: 7,466