Tuesday, November 3, 2015

San Francisco Double Feature to start Movie Churches crossover month: St Paul Church and Cornerstone

Saint Paul Church
Let's dash some false expectations right off the bat. This month we're visiting churches that were featured in movies (movies we feature in our Movie Churches blog).  We went to St Paul Church in San Francisco, which doubled for "St. Katherine's" in the 1992 comedy, "Sister Act." If you've seen that film, you should know these three things:
1) St. Paul's does not (at least on the Sunday we attended) sing pop songs such as "My Guy" turned into"My God."
2) We met two very nice nuns, both of the Dominican Order, visiting for the day. But we're pretty sure neither of them was a Reno lounge singer in disguise hiding out from the Mob.
3) The area surrounding the church was not a fearful ghetto that the clergy of the church hid from in fear. It's in a very nice neighborhood and seems to be very much a part of it.

What viewers of the film will find familiar is a rather gorgeous building and sanctuary.  One can understand why the filmmakers were drawn to it. Fine craftsmanship went into the stonework for the exterior and the iconic spires can be seen from afar. The interior of the sanctuary features a lovely series of scenes of the life of Christ pictured in stained glass.

Before mass, as Mindy was taking pictures of the church's interior, an older gentlemen pointed to a stained glass window that showed Jesus at the wedding in Cana, showing the water becoming wine. "The miracle is happening," the man said, "It's right there in front of you."

This was one of several times in the morning when people approached us to begin conversations. After the service when we went for coffee and donuts, I noticed what I thought was a brilliant innovation that really should be replicated in a number of places. The church has a school and we were in the school's gym (another brilliant move, since it gave kids the opportunity to run around and make noise without bothering people conversing around the food), and on the wall was a big screen TV showing the San Francisco 49ers game in progress. A man asked me if I knew the score. We watched as the Niners gave up a safety and shared the pain too common in this current Red and Gold season.

Sadly, in our many visits to churches over this year, there have been times when we've been ignored, even pointedly so. There have been times when we have been noticed and greeted, but awkwardly ("So, what are you doing here?"). The congregation of St. Paul's struck us as a friendly community with a number of people happy to engage both longtime members and guests.

But this morning we needed to move along to see other longtime friends. We went to a second church service at noon at Cornerstone Church, a nondenominational Protestant congregation.
There are several reasons we could give for going to a second church this last Sunday.

We could say that since it was both All Saints Day and Reformation Sunday, we wanted to go to both a Catholic and Protestant church to celebrate both occasions.

We could say that since we're featuring "Movie Churches" this month, we decided to celebrate the dying cinematic tradition of a double feature.

Cornerstone Church 
But we really went to Cornerstone to see friends who attended Concord Bible Church with us back in the early '90's. Dave and Val Gallaher were vital and active members of that church and fun and delightful people. Our son was a baby just a few days younger than the Gallaher's twin girls, so Mindy and Val spent a lot of time in a hallway behind the sanctuary that functioned as a cry room.

So we were excited to have a chance to see where Dave and Val now worship. We arrived early and parked in a garage that the church maintains for first time visitors and families. We chatted with one of the parking attendants, Kris, and of course she knew the Gallahers. We talked to several other people in the church before Dave and Val arrived, and they all knew our friends; which, of course, speaks well of Dave and Val and of the church (as it turns out, Val is active in the visitor information program).

Attending services in both churches was a vivid reminder of differences in how worship is done these days. At St. Paul's we flipped through the pages of the missal (a liturgical book with songs and order of worship for each Sunday in the quarter or the year) to find the words to the songs. A piano and organ provided the accompaniment. A small choir sang occasionally to the side of the congregation and a song leader at times led in the front.  Classic hymns were sung and the newer songs were of a piece with the older songs.
At Cornerstone there was a loud and lively worship band, and during one song, time was taken for an electric guitar solo. The room was darkened for worship and the lyrics appeared on the screen in front. Some of the songs I've sung in other churches and heard on K-LOVE, but some were new to me.

At both churches there was a brief time of greeting with the exchange of smiles and handshakes.

At St. Paul, the priest who gave the sermon, Father Mario, was just returning to minister after surgery and convalescence. He apologized in advance if "things didn't go according to Hoyle." As fitting All Saint's Day, he reminded the congregation that God has called all his people to live as saints. As you might note in the statistics below, he spoke for ten minutes.

At Cornerstone, the senior pastor is on sabbatical, and one of the associate pastors, Luis Menjivar added to a church series on the "I Am" statements of Jesus, speaking on "I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life". He spoke for forty minutes.

As happens at St. Paul and every Catholic Church every Sunday, the Eucharist was celebrated.

At Cornerstone, communion is celebrated once a month at a special Wednesday evening service.

In two years, it will be 500 years since that first Reformation Day. Through those years, conflict between churches has been fierce, even bloody. But we were reminded this Sunday that God continues to work through his Saints of various denominational stripes to make His love known.

Saint Paul Church (9:15 Mass)
Service Length: 1 hour 15 minutes
Sermon Length: 9 minutes
Visitor Treatment: two greeting times during service (one was "passing the peace"), fellowship time in St Paul School gym after 9:15 mass. No visitor card that I remember
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none (but then again, they didn't know we'd been there)
Our Rough Count: 150
Probable Ushers' Count: 175
Snacks: coffee and donuts, donation appreciated
Musicians: piano, organ, song leader, four or five singers
Songs: Holy, Holy, Holy
            Glory to God
            Hear our Prayer (choral prayer response)
            "With All the Saints"
            Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts
            The Mystery of Faith
            Lamb of God
            Blessed are They
            We are the Body of Christ (Somos el cuerpo de Christo)
Miles to place: 64
Total California Miles: 14,604
Church website: stpaulsf.org

Cornerstone Church  (noon service)
Service Length: 1 hour 12 minutes
Sermon Length: 41 minutes
Visitor Treatment: greeting time during service, private parking garage for first time visitors, information team wearing badges in information area near cafe and outside building, slide on screen with email address for more information
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none (although we had lunch with a member of the information team after church) 
UPDATE: We got an email from the church inviting us to an informational gathering in January and letting us know about various classes (which, if the letter weren't sent by our friend who works on the information team at the church and knows we wanted the information for this blog, would have been tailored to our demographic needs) are available. Thanks Val!

Our Rough Count: 200 plus (we couldn't see the balcony very well)
Probable Ushers' Count: 300
Snacks: cafe with coffee,other drinks, and various kinds of toast for sale

Musicians: drums (male), electric guitar, mandolin and some vocals (male), acoustic guitar and vocals (female, worship leader), electric bass and standup bass (male), keyboard and vocals (female)
Songs: You are Good
            Filled with Your Glory
            Mercy's War (just band)
            The Way (just band)
Miles to place: 1.6 miles from St Paul Church, 66 miles from home
Total California Miles: 14,669

Church website: cornerstone-sf.org

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