Monday, November 30, 2015

4 Thoughts about Church Music

This weekend we visited two different churches, arriving (we thought) about half an hour before the worship services were scheduled to begin. At one church the worship team was practicing; at the other, an earlier worship service was concluding recorded music was broadcast outside the building. From both, music could be heard from the parking lot. As we approach Christmas, with carols and other seasonal music in the air, (and as Dean and I anticipate focusing on music this next month) I got to thinking about church music.

Here are  a few thoughts based on a quick search for the word "music" in the Bible (I used the New International Reader's Version, since it uses simpler language).

1. Volume  In many churches, music is pretty loud. When I was about five, sitting in the front row at Historic First Presbyterian Church in East Cleveland with the rest of the children's choir, I remember huddling in the corner of the pew while the adult choir sang, covering my ears even though the songs were usually hymns sung to organ accompaniment. So loud. I empathise with those who find current church music too loud, but I confess I rather like it now. And loud music seems to have been part of worship for a very long time: 2 Chronicles 30:21 (...They praised the LORD with loud musical instruments. The instruments had been set apart to the LORD.), Psalm 98:4 (Shout for joy to the LORD, everyone on earth. Burst into joyful songs and make music.), and Psalm 47:1 (For the director of music. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. Clap your hands, all you nations. Shout to God with cries of joy.)

2. Content  I tend to prefer songs that are more about God: His goodness, His saving mercy, His power, His sovereignty. Other people like songs that reflect their own experiences. Scripture (especially the book of Psalms) shows people singing about pretty much everything. I guess we should, too. Psalm 104:33 says, "I will sing to the LORD all my life. I will sing praise to my God as long as I live."

3. Audience Participation  This one's pretty fun, actually, because the Bible lists lots of people who were professional worship musicians (like all those Levites who made music day and night), and it lists a number of enthusiastic amateurs (like King David). But those aren't the only people making music in the Bible. There are verses about women singing praises to God (among a number of other examples, in Exodus 15, after the Israelites escaped from Egypt by crossing the sea on dry ground, Miriam and "all the women" played tambourines and danced and sang, "Sing to the LORD. He is greatly honored. He has thrown Pharaoh's horses and chariot drivers into the Red Sea.") I'm always a little sad when I look around in a worship service and see only a few people joining the worship team to sing.

4.Purpose Is music in a worship service for the benefit of the people worshiping, or for the glory of God? (easy answer: yes) How about this from Ephesians 5:19? "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord."

Whether you sing loudly (I think bad singing adds a non-traditional layer of harmony -- but then again, I'm often the off-key singer) or quietly in your heart (or anywhere in between), the important thing is making music to the Lord. So as we're looking at music in churches this coming month, watch (and listen) for your favorites!
-- Mindy 

Friday, November 27, 2015

How to / How Not to Make a Church Website (guest post!)

I’ve been visiting a lot of church websites recently. Probably not as many as Dean and Mindy (who, from here on out, I’ll be calling Dad and Mom, which I find it more comfortable and accurate, seeing as I’m their daughter), but quite a few.

I moved from Pennsylvania to Washington state last July, and even though my parents have been playing at church hunting, I’ve been doing the real thing, and I can say from the front lines that it can be exhausting.
Honestly, the worst part of the process isn’t finding churches or meeting a whole group of new people each week or even wading through the sermons (I’m looking at you hour-long-sermon-with-no-real-point). The hardest part is that every time I walk through a church’s doors, I have no idea what I’m getting into.

“But wait!” the hypothetical reader shouts. “What about their websites?
And to some degree, the hypothetical reader is completely right. We live in the 21st century, and even the smallest congregation can put together the funds to get a domain name and slap together a few pages about what they believe and when they meet. Theoretically, this should be helpful.In practice, though, every church website ends up the same. If I had to break it into to three components, here they are: 

About section -- This is here to assure you that they are a Bible based church that believes in Jesus, the Trinity and all that good stuff.
Wear whatever’s comfortable” -- Most churches that feel they’re hip enough to have a website want to make sure you know you’re welcome at their church no matter what you’re wearing. Some do include a note that many of their congregants still dress semi-formally, just to give you a heads up, but then reassure you that they will welcome you no matter what you wear.
Service time and location -- This is generally why I go to a church website. Although I check for the other two, it’s usually safe to assume they’re there, but this is the essential one. On some websites it’s the hardest to find, nestled away in some weird contact page, beneath three paragraphs describing child care. Just in case any church website planners are out there, I have a personal request: Please put this on the about page or the front page. If I can’t find it, I can’t go to your church.

Notice the things that aren’t on this list of common elements: service length, general congregation age, church size, style of worship, whether or not your church is filled with unrepentant serial killers (OK, I can assume on that last one).

Because websites are so easy to make with tools like Squarespace, Wordspace or any of their other fine competitors, the site for a church with six members might look very similar to a mega church’s site. (I once visited a church that, by their good site and decent signage, I expected a large crowd -- only to find about 9 people and a pastor with a guitar.) This makes websites almost completely useless. Which brings me to marketing.

It feels weird to talk about good marketing for a church, but I feel like it’s not a bad mindset to use. Bad marketing gets as many people as possible to look at your thing. Good marketing helps people figure out whether or not they want your thing, then brings them in. So here are a few things I’d love to see in a church’s about section:

Age -- Does your congregation have a lot of families? Let parents know, they’ll be happy to know their kids will be able to make friends. Do you have an older congregation with traditional hymns? That’s great! It’ll bring in both nice old people, and the younger people who love nice old people will be there too (at my college, some of the girls loved their church full of blue haired ladies since the students got treated like extra grandchildren).

Worship -- Do you have a top notch band who can provide a great worship experience, even for people who don’t like to sing? Advertise it. Do you sing the great old hymns and invite people to sing along as loudly as they can, even if they’re off key? Tell me that too.

 -- Big churches are a little easier to identify; they usually have multiple services, but if you’re a small church or especially a very small church, I’d love knowing that. Some people might be intimidated by quiet singing and empty pews, but other people would love the community you’re able to build when you know everybody at your church.

Typical service length -- This is just practical: will I be there all afternoon? Let me know so I can plan accordingly. Some churches do actually put this in already, and I love them for it.

-- How demonstrative am I supposed to be at church? Now that congregations are getting a little more shy about talking about which sect they’ve chosen--or if I don’t recognize the name of their branch of Christianity--it’s harder to tell what I’m getting into. Smith Bible Church might be a quiet Presbyterian place where everyone keeps their hands on their laps, but Jones Community Church down the street loves throwing their hands up in the air and pausing services to let the congregants share their visions or prophesy. Neither of their websites will say a word about this.

Politics -- Are you, in the first place, at all political? Do you feel like your church is the place to rise up for important causes that you feel are related to your faith, or would you rather keep the politics at home? Where do you fall on the political scale? Additionally, national politics aside, does your church tend to be more liberal or conservative when it comes to their theology?

Photos -- These might be the most important. I’ve really appreciated sites that have at least one photo of worship (staff pictures don’t count). Pictures answer a lot of the questions I mentioned above without awkwardly saying “We’re a big mega church” or “We’re all old.”

I’m going to backtrack here. To some degree, the grab bag element to churches can be a good thing. Over the last year and a half, I’ve spent over ten months church hunting (here in Washington and in Pennsylvania as well). Because I don’t know what I’m getting into, I’ve seen a lot of churches I wouldn’t have otherwise, and some of them were great, and some of them were fun horror stories to tell my friends.

The problem, though, is the more bad fits I find, the more exhausting the search becomes, and the harder it is to try another church. Blind dating churches who aren’t quite the right fit wears you down just like any bad blind date would.

Obviously, this solution wouldn’t fix everything. The church I left because the pastor seemed to think the fact that nonbelievers can do nice things too was some amazing revelation won’t put that on its website. The church I probably won’t pick because their pastor’s sermon put me to sleep wouldn’t be able to anticipate that on their website either, but these suggestions might make the waters of church hunting a little less murky.

So, churches: use your websites. Tell me who you actually are. I’d love to meet you.

UPDATE 12/9/15 Paige just found a church website that she says "tells you exactly what you're getting, and I appreciate that. Their list of 'Rejected Church Slogans' has more personality in it than every church website I've seen combined."  Check it out! 

Paige Lowe graduated from a Knox College in Illinois a year and a half ago. Since then, she's lived in two communities on opposite sides of the country. She's sought out church homes in each place...but it hasn't been easy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

La Verne United Methodist Church

 We've been featuring films used as locations for movies, and as a public service we've been highlighting false expectations one might have if you visit these churches assuming life is just like it is in the movies.

This Sunday we visited La Verne United Methodist Church, which was used for the final scenes of the classic 1967 satire, "The Graduate." If you've seen the film, be aware of these three things:

1) Weddings aren't always in progress. The wedding scene from "The Graduate" is iconic, so much so that two other films used this same church to recreate the scene ("Wayne's World 2" and "Bubble Boy"). The church acknowledges this part of its past in its literature and with posters of the films in the office. The church is often used for weddings. The building and grounds are quite lovely, so I can understand people wanting to use the site for that reason, but if they're looking to recreate the wedding from any of these films, all things considered, that's pretty odd. However that may be, on a Sunday morning, worship will be in progress rather than a wedding.

2) Probably no one will interrupt the service banging on the glass window at the back of the sanctuary. Anyone who's seen the film remembers Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) interrupting the wedding, knocking on the glass in the balcony. That balcony is there, but it's used as a baby room. Some visitors have been disappointed to find that the outdoor staircase to the balcony in the film was set up by the film company and then removed.

3) It's not just WASPs who worship there. In the film, Benjamin's family and all of their friends are well-to-do repressed Caucasians. (One of the best jokes in the film, intended or unintended, is Dustin Hoffman's sticking out like a sore thumb Jewishness.) The real congregation reflects the community with a variety of ethnicities. Obviously, there are places in the country where reflecting a community makes a congregation monochrome. But it is nice though, to see a congregation living out Galatians 3:28.

Now let me deal with a different expectation. There are times when we visit a church that's attended by people we know. There are times we visit churches we've read about and researched. At those times we know what we're getting into. But there are times when something brings us to a church we know little or nothing about ahead of time. Frankly, at such times, our expectations are low.

About all we knew about this church was that scene from "The Graduate," so our hopes weren't high. We tried to do a bit of online research and could only find the directions and a membership number from the Methodist denominational website. Our oldest son came along with us (he's in his twenties), so we told him, "We have no idea what this service will be like, but it's Methodist, so it shouldn't go much over an hour." And the service lasted about an hour. And it was a joyful time of worship.

Hope rose upon arrival, when we saw young people waiting outside the church. Especially with my son along, we were hoping the church wouldn't be in a place with only gray hair. I'm sorry if that sounds ageist, but it is sad at times going to a church primarily consisting of seniors. One wonders how long the church will last. I was happy to a number of children and youth go forward for the "Time for Young Disciples" (aka Children's Sermon).

Background music tracks were used for the opening choruses, which were lively. The worship team had practiced with the tracks (it is obvious when such practice doesn't take place). I was happy we sang "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" on this Sunday before Thanksgiving. ("We Gather Together" is my favorite Thanksgiving hymn, but we sang my second favorite, so I was thankful).

There was an open time of sharing joys and concerns for prayers, one of the great benefits of a smaller congregation. The sermon was one of the shortest we've heard visiting church, but it was a solid bit of teaching on "Christ the King" on Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday of the church calendar). At the conclusion of the service everyone stood and joined hands in a circle around the sanctuary for a final song and benediction.

La Verne Methodist Church was founded in 1887 and, as their pastor, David Camphouse wrote in this month's newsletter, the church has succeeded "by word of mouth, telling the story of Jesus Christ from one generation to the next." I trust they will continue to do so.

Service Length: 1 hour 3 minutes
Sermon Length: 7 minutes
Visitor Treatment: several people greeted us when we arrived outside the church; a member of the trustee board asked why we were taking so many pictures (she was friendly about it, but concerned because others weren't coming in for worship while we were photographing). The "passing of the peace" greeting time took about five minutes, and a number of people approached us since we were visitors. There was a visitor information form in the bulletin and in the guest packet (containing information about the church, its history, and various ministries). We were encouraged to stay for the fellowship/snack time after the worship service.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 60
Probable Ushers' Count: 75
Snacks: spaghetti, banana/cranberry bread, brownies, coffee, sodas, iced tea and apple juice
Musicians: The worship team had 1 man on drums with two men and two women singing. The choir consisted of six men and four women, plus the choir director (a man) who also accompanied on the piano. For the choir's main song, there was also a man playing flute
Songs: "Rise Up"
"I Delight in You"
"Your Beloved"
"Come, Ye Thankful People Come" (with choir introduction)
"Indescribable" (choir anthem with flute solo)
"For the Beauty of the Earth"
"Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past"
Miles to place: 480
Total California Miles: 17,043
Church website: none

Monday, November 23, 2015

7 Things I Didn't Know about Schools in La Verne

1. Bonita High School, located on D Street across from La Verne United Methodist Church, is the original high school in the Bonita Unified School District. The other is San Dimas High School.

2. Bonita has been recognized as a California Distinguished School for its excellence in Academics, Athletics, and the Arts.

3. Among the distinguished graduates of Bonita High School are Jason David Frank, who is best known for playing Tommy Oliver in Power Rangers; and Erin Gruwell, who is the high school teacher featured in the movie Freedom Writers.

4. University of La Verne, founded as Lordsburg College in 1891, was founded by members of the Church of the Brethren, though it's now non-sectarian.

5. The University now holds undergraduate and graduate classes on several campuses around Southern California.

6. The total enrollment of the University this year is over 8,500, with most on the main campus in LaVerne. Most classes have no more than 19 students.

7. In addition to the public schools, La Verne also has a Lutheran high school, a Catholic boy's high school and a Baptist school.
-- Mindy

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saint Joseph's, Tuolumne City

Life isn't like the movies (which is usually a good thing), so as we visit churches this month that were featured in movies, we deal with Movie Church expectations that  aren't met in real life. This week was no exception. St. Joseph's was used for the church exteriors in the Western classic, High Noon, but if you were hoping for any of the following things, you'll be sorely disappointed if you visit this small church in the foothills of gold country.

  1. There were no horses tied in front of the church, and no buggies parked. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising as the film is set in New Mexico Territory in the late 1880's, sometime after the arrival of the railroad. The church was built in 1908, so it wasn't quite in the era of the Old West, but it was close. The pastor, Father John Fitzgerald, has been serving at this church for 23 years, and it was not until his tenure that heating and air-conditioning was added to the facility.
  2. The church in the film seems to be a Protestant church of some variety, which is not the case here -- as you can see by a glance at the name of the church. Among the morning's hymns, though, was "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" by Isaac Watts which was sung in plenty of Protestant churches in the Old West.
  3. The service was not interrupted by a sheriff asking for volunteers to face a vengeful killer and his brothers arriving on the noon train. In fact, I didn't notice anyone entering the church after the service began, which isn't that common. At the other Catholic services we've attended, a good number of people have come in late. We have no explanation for these facts (we didn't notice any train tracks in town, either, but we doubt these things are connected).

We were quite thankful not to be late for church. We'd  spent the night in Bootjack with friends (more than an hour's drive away), so we left their house around 7:00 in the morning. When we pulled up in front of the church, it was easily identified as the church from High Noon. We thought we were an hour early, since we'd thought mass started at 10:00 am. But we saw the sign reading "9:00 am Mass," and we heard the bells ring. We entered just minutes before the service began (so again, no movie reenactment here).

An elderly woman was lighting the candles at the front of the sanctuary. She turned to the congregation and said, "I need a man to help with these candles!" Knowing the sorry example of cowardly men in the film High Noon, men too cowardly to volunteer to help Gary Cooper, I volunteered immediately. I went forward and could see that the high candle she was trying to reach was, in fact, already lit, though the flame was small and blue. Though she couldn't see it, I assured her it was lit.

The service began. Soon I was experiencing a frustration I've experienced in every Catholic service we've attended this year. I really have a hard time following the order of service, the readings and the songs. Entering the service we were handed a folder with three different books in it. We switched off between those three sections without being told at any time which section we were using. You need to look up the day's date at the beginning of the book to know that on that day, November 15th, was the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time (I think). Father Fitzgerald reminded us it was almost the end of the church year (Advent is the beginning). The numbers of the songs could be found on a board on the wall. But finding the responses and songs still was a challenge. Even lifelong Catholics must get lost on occasion.

The Scriptures, especially the passages from Daniel and Mark, focused on the End Times, the Second Coming of Christ. Father Fitzgerald spoke of the tribulation Scripture foretold, "Once we thought persecution was just in the past, but today, particularly in the Middle East, it is quite upfront." He said, "The Second Coming has the warning of judgment, but greater is the promise of consolation that will come with Christ's return."
During this weekend of the terror of the ISIS attack in Paris, it was good to look at the hope found in the promise that history is in God's hands. Father Fitzgerald made a point that we, as Christ's disciples, must live in the present, but we are able to do so because of Scripture's promises for the future.

After the service I went to talk to the cantor, the woman leading the music. I needed to ask her what instrument she was playing. I thought it was a mandolin, but I have little experience with mandolins. It was. Then she told me I had given her an example of faith that morning. She hadn't been able to see the light of the candle either. But she trusted my word and later watched the flame grow.

The flame of St. Joseph's Church in Tuolumne City has been burning for over a century, and I trust it will continue to burn. I hope until Christ's return.

Service Length: 1 hour 2 minutes
Sermon Length: 13 minutes
Visitor Treatment: we were greeted and given the worship binder (with three different books in it) at the entrance. During the passing of the peace, the people around us greeted us, and after mass, Father Fitzgerald made a point of meeting us.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 44
Probable Ushers' Count: 50
Snacks: donuts and coffee cake, coffee and hot chocolate (which was welcome on a chilly, rainy morning)
Musicians: three women singing (one with mandolin)
Songs: "I Sing the Mighty Power of God"
            chanting introit
            Psalm 85 chant
            "Glory be to the Father"
            "Lord Jesus you are the hope" chant

            "Lord Have Mercy"
            "Lamb of God" chant
            There were several chants that aren't listed here, and I missed the name of the last song
Miles to place: 289
Total California Miles: 16,105

Church website:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Six Things I Didn't Know about Chinese Camp (and nearby parts of Gold Country)

Even though I've wanted to see the town of Chinese Camp (population 126 in 2010), for at least fifteen years, I hadn't noticed that we'd be passing through it this week. But when we saw the historical marker there, we stopped for a picture and ended up driving off the highway a block or two to see what we could see through the morning rain.

1. It's just off California Highway 49 -- Gold Country Highway, among other nicknames -- which winds 326 miles along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Oakhurst in the south past Downieville in the north. The road can be tricky, what with weather, elevation changes, switchbacks and unexpected obstructions north of Coulterville.

2. Historical markers (of one kind and another)
sometimes add to the mystery. For example, why is there a marker about a stage coach driver on this building?

3. During the gold rush era, over 5,000 Chinese lived here. 

4. Even though civilization came rather slowly to the area, literature is also part of the history of Gold Country.

5. There's a church in Chinese Camp that was used in High Noon (though services haven't been held there since the 1920s). We didn't see it in our brief detour. 

6. Amazing things hide just off the main road.

-- Mindy

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

First Congregational Church of Long Beach

This month we're visiting churches that are featured in movies, so it seems reasonable to first deal with expectations raised by viewing the movie. This week's church was used as a location for the Robin Williams film "License to Wed." Here are three things found in the film which we didn't find at the actual church:

1) The pastors are not wildly antic stand-up comedians. Yes, I know that some may find such clergy appealing, but do you really want your pastor making zany asides about your mother's liver disease? Senior Minister the Rev. Elena Larssen and  Associate Minister the Rev. John Forrest Douglas seemed to be quite pleasant and kind, both with a decent sense of humor, but neither seemed destined to be opening at the Improv any time soon.
2) Late comers were not shamed. In the film, Williams interrupts his own prayer to note that the couple under his premarital counseling is late for church. The choir sings a special little "you're late" song reminiscent of the white rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland." When we were at this church, anyway, late comers entered in peace. Shaming people for any reason would be at odds with the middle part of the church motto: "A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice."
3) St. Augustine's Church in the film is quite nebulous about its denominational affiliation, whereas First Congregational is clear about its denominational affiliation, proud of their descent from the Pilgrims. In a conversation with folks before church, there were several mentions (usually jovial) of someone or other being a "good Congregationalist" and the denomination received a few hat tips during the service.

We arrived half an hour before the service and a number of people welcomed us and someone directed me to a church timeline filling a wall in the fellowship hall ("Koinonia Room"). The display had been set up the previous year in celebration of the church building's hundredth anniversary. There were a number of interesting entries through the years (I was amused by a mention of a petition early in the 20th century against billiards and pool tables, and was interested to see the church's proclamations against Hitler in the early 1930's).

The timeline noted television shows that been filmed at the church, including Ally McBeal and Criminal Minds. A gentleman named Chan told me that American Horror Story had recently done location filming there. Chan had been serving as church secretary when Ally McBeal filmed, and said that everything that might interrupt filming had been removed then, except the church's answering machine.

I asked Chan how long he had been attending the church. He said he and his partner first came to the church in 1987.  He believed they might have been the church's first openly gay couple. (I noticed that the timeline included the church's participation in a Gay Pride parade in 1985.) Chan said he believed a third of the church was gay or lesbian, though someone else thought half would be more accurate. (Another gentleman, Ben, told Mindy that the official figure is 43%.) Chan and Ben both mentioned that the associate minister is gay (which the church's website also mentions). A number of people we talked to said that the church's welcoming nature is what first appealed to them.

The service opened with the sound of a Buddhist singing bowl and the progression of the choir in their robes to the front of the sanctuary. (Mindy noticed the organist in shorts providing a nice casual contrast to the choir and clerical robes.) During the service, the choir that day sang a Randy Stonehill song from the eighties, "Shut de Do'." (In the weekly church newsletter, the choir director said of the song, "What strikes me is that the only thing required to keep the devil at bay, in the words of this week's anthem, is a door that is kept shut. The door, of course, is just as figurative as the devil ... but sometimes an actual door or two can make a difference.")

The church was beginning the annual stewardship drive, which I had heard people talking about before the service. During the "Stewardship Moment", a member of the congregation urged people to consider the benefit the church provided by offering opportunities to volunteer.  The Drop-In Center provides meals for the homeless, and a number of students have used this as an opportunity to meet requirements for volunteer hours. Other groups have served at the center, including Hindu, Muslim and Jewish organizations. The DAYS Program provides language and math tutoring for schoolchildren.Volunteering for these programs, the speaker noted, made people "feel better about themselves."

The prayer time was introduced as a "moment to take a deep breath."  The conclusion of the prayer was not, as is common in churches, in Jesus' name, but rather "we pray this in your many names." (There is a reason we honor the name of Jesus above all others. In Philippians 2, Paul  wrote, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."*)

Rev. Douglas gave the sermon, using Mark 12:41-44 (where a widow donated all she had, two small coins, to God's service) as his starting point. He began by telling the story of "The Lion King," saying that just as Simba believed Scar's lies, we tell ourselves lies. We say, "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm not good enough for that job." But, he said, the widow's story teaches us that "YOU ARE ENOUGH."

The thing is, though we sometimes tell ourselves untrue and negative messages, sometimes we're not smart enough. That's why Harvard didn't come begging me to take their scholarship money. And I'm not up to the job of center for the Golden State Warriors. Those who use a twelve-step program to deal with their addictions admit regularly that by themselves, they're not enough to deal with their cravings. And I'm not good enough for salvation without the grace that comes through Christ's death on the cross. I'm not enough, but Jesus is.

All of this made me rather sad this week. You see, as we've visited various churches, we obviously encounter beliefs and practices that differ from our own.  We usually consider these minor things. But this church, in an article explaining their liberal theology, states that for most who are part of the church, "Jesus is not a divine figure sent from God to pay for the sins of a fallen humanity." In the Bible, 1 John 4:2 -3 reads, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."

We really liked the kind people we met at this church, and they serve their community in fine ways. But salvation through Jesus Christ is heart of the Christian gospel. As C. S. Lewis famously argued, Jesus was the Lord, a liar or a lunatic. This church wishes to honor Jesus as a good teacher, but He didn't leave us that option.

*Philippians 2:9-11, NIV


Service Length: 1 hour 16 minutes
Sermon Length: 13 minutes
Visitor Treatment: "Passing the peace" was a warm greeting time during the service, and several people greeted us as we walked around before worship began. Each pew had an attendance form that all were encouraged to use to register their attendance.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: Welcoming email on Monday afternoon (from the Associate Minister)
Our Rough Count: 145
Probable Ushers' Count: 175
Snacks: coffee, tea and hot chocolate in the courtyard; cookies, fruit and other treats available in the Koinonia room for a donation to the Outreach and Social Justice committee
Musicians: organist/bongos (male), choir director/maracas (male), rhythm sticks (male), full choir (forgot to count, but probably about 15-20 men, 15-20 women), youth bell choir (about 10 middle school aged students), guitar (male) and percussion box (male) for a special song
Songs: organ, "Prelude on 'Borning Cry'"
            "We Sing Because"
            "Song of Welcome"
            bell choir, "A Festive Intrada"
            "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry"
            choir, "Shut de Do'"
            special music, "It's Just Leaving"
            "There's a Spirit in the Air"
            organ, "Diptych (based on 'Orientis Partibus')"
            "What a Covenant"
            organ postlude (which people stayed for) "Trumpet Toccata"
Miles to place: 498
Total California Miles: 15,624
Church website: