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

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