Tuesday, September 25, 2018

We go to a comedy club for a party

Kalos Church, Bellevue, Washington
Call me a Grinch or a Scrooge or a killjoy, but I’m not usually a fan of birthday parties for one year olds, especially when it’s a big event with dozens of people gathering, some bringing their own one- or two-year-olds who are as baffled as the birthday child by the loud music and popping balloons and candle flames approaching a small young face. Why throw a party when the guest of honor has no idea what’s happening?

Even I’ll admit, though, it’s a very different thing when the one-year-old birthday party is for a church. so we were happy to join the celebration of one year of ministry for Kalos Church. The church meets in shopping mall (something we’ve encountered before); the web site directions read next to the movie theater and above Lucky Strike (a bowling alley). The church meets in a comedy club, the Parlor Live Comedy Club.

The marquee inside the mall announced the birthday party with video of folks from the congregation acting a bit silly. A woman carrying a child greeted us and when she learned we were visiting, gave us a tour of the rooms the church uses and showed us where the restrooms were. Once in the sanctuary/theater space, we saw pictures of comedians who have appeared in the club, but in honor of the church’s birthday celebration, there were also balloons, birthday banners, and large trays of cupcakes. I’m guessing the coffee and bagels available as we came into the space were standard fare. Like the children’s spaces in the club, the decorations were all the more impressive because they have to be set up and taken down every Sunday.

A number of people greeted us, and -- more impressively -- seemed eager to engage in conversation. I talked to Andrew, the director of music and one of the founding members of the young church. I asked him what he thought was one of the best things about Kalos Church, and he said, “Everyone here wants to be together; to be friends, not just friendly.” (As the morning went on, I heard others use these same words, a motto for the church.)

We attended the first ever 9:45 am service in the life of the church. During the first year, the church had only one worship service on Sunday mornings; now there are two (the other starts at 11:30 am). Both seemed well attended that morning (I peeked in the door at the second service). As the 9:45 service began, more chairs were pulled out of a closet. After a little singing, a worship leader said, “Sometimes it’s like passing through heaven and hell to make it here at 9:45 AM on a Sunday morning… Over the next hour, we’ll have singing, communion, sharing a message.”

There was an announcement about the Crash Course that takes place after the worship service, where staff and volunteers help guests understand the purpose and ministries of the church and how they can be involved. Crash Course includes a free catered lunch (we went. They served nachos, ginger beef with rice, and toast points that morning).

During a video of highlights of the church’s first year, people chuckled as they recognized themselves and friends. After a short look back at the church’s launch on September 17, 2017 (with 200 in attendance), Pastors Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva led the congregation in singing “Happy Birthday” to themselves and each other.

Dave, who manages The Parlor Bellevue and who’s the church’s contact person, was called up for recognition. He often works late on Saturday nights (it’s a club, after all), but he’s always there to open the space for church set-up before 7:30 am. The pastors thanked him and reminded the congregation to thank and honor him. (He was also given a gift; no idea what it was).

Pradeepan preached a sermon that was a continuation of their series “Dream Again” (based on Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”) He said that many of us are living without hope, but that God wants us to know that our best days are still ahead.

He shared some of their dreams with the beginning of the church. The church needed a lot of things, so they set up an Amazon wish list. Out of the blue came a request that Amreitha should meet someone in a park, with their young son. With trepidation, she went and met another mother of a small child. They talked about parenting, and Amreitha talked about their dreams for the church. That evening they got a message. The woman she’d met in the park told her to take a look at the wish list. She had purchased $40,000 in needed sound and audio visual equipment, the biggest items on their list -- including the Nord Stage 3 keyboard. Pradeepan mentioned the Nord several times, I think because it’s fun to say “Nord.”

He got to the text of sermon, Mark 8: 22 - 25, the story where Jesus heals the blind man by spitting in the dirt and putting the mud in the man’s eyes. One of the points Pradeepan made was that miracles are messy. He went on to talk about churches being messy places and told about being hurt himself in the church, but also told how God had healed him in the church.

Pradeepan shared some of his own story. His family were Hindu refugees from Sri Lanka, who came to live in a trailer park in Minnesota. He grew up with many struggles and doubts, growing up in this strange, cold land. At 17 he was suicidal, but he found hope in a Christian church, and he found Jesus.

I appreciated that there was a lot of talk about Jesus in the church. “Jesus is a big deal to us. If you remember just one thing from this morning, it’s Jesus is the best.” The name of the church, Kalos, comes from the Greek word for beauty. It , and the name was chosen to “make known the beauty of Christ, even when churches have done ugly things… The beauty of Jesus in a comedy club is no joke.”

I have to agree. The beauty of Jesus is worth celebrating, worth a party (even for a first birthday).

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