UPDATE: Just received a "thanks but, no thanks" email. Will be interesting to see who becomes the new pastor. Still planning on visiting the Episcopal church in that town.
Ken was out of town, so it was Kevin and I who visited the church. Very different in some ways than any church I've been a part of before. Very similar in other ways.
Betsy, the church I visited, after sending in a pastoral resume and application, is right around the corner from the little Episcopal church that I talked to you about in an email. I still haven't been there, and I still know I will...eventually. How strange, however, it seemed that I passed their lovely little building as I was looking for the other church. The town is one that I've said more than once I'd like to live in, and our favorite restaurant is there. Important stuff! LOL
First, the building is a former grocery store, and that is apparent. So no lawn, no flowers, no steeple....and so on. Just a "box" in a parking lot, but nicely painted in green, which went with the church logo (three leaves) and theme of "growing." K. and I sensed a good atmosphere as soon as we got out of the car. People were calling greetings to each other, smiling, walking briskly. We were greeted by seven people between the parking lot and the auditorium, all genuinely friendly and welcoming. There was instant awareness of (the phrase we both used in the car on the way home) "positive energy."
The building was originally designed to be a center for their large youth ministry, and that is still quite evident in the colors and appearance when you walk in, but I think this is a good thing. The entry leads into an inviting "cafe" where many people were having a (free) donut and coffee before church. Again, lots of smiles, conversation, etc. K. and I had a cup of coffee and looked around. Great kids church area...very high tech...but in a good way, it seemed to me. Off to one side near the cafe there is a small basketball court! And video games, ping pong and pool tables, an old pinball machine. Wow!
The "auditorium" (not sanctuary or worship center?) was a little over half full. Someone moved a chair so K.'s wheel chair would not be in the aisle, something he hates, so they made points with K. right off. There was pre service music playing, but very non-traditional, very upbeat praise music. The worship team was YOUNG....really young, but really good. Their worship and media leader is leaving as well as the pastor, so I wonder who will step in? They have a new youth pastor. He and his wife will likely do very well there. I've know them a long time, both attended the AG church we did before we went to Jubilee.
I noted that everything they did seemed to be done well. The words lined up properly on the big screens (oh, of course they had screens!), the bulletin was well-done and colorful and coordinated with the pastor's sermon series logo, no English errors (yay). Everything was contemporary, crisp, clean....and this was good except I found myself wondering if there was any way under Heaven that one could have a candlelight service, an Advent wreath, anything remotely traditional. What I call the "latent Lutheran" part of me would be a bit sad, sometimes, in this auditorium.
There was nothing to indicate that this was a worship space. No symbols, not even a cross, anywhere. But when the worship service began it was "church." Good. Something I liked a great deal was that the worship music included both contemporary praise songs and hymns. Nicely done, and I was aware of God's presence in the place. Very comfortable.
The sanctuary was youthful. At first that was okay, but after a while I found the black and reddish orange walls, the bright yellow and turquoise light panels behind the platform, and the Chinese lanterns to be distracting. The youth group, which is large, does meet in the same space during the week, but I found myself thinking of ways to make the space a bit less garish and still inviting to all. How about shades of green, which would emphasize the theme of "growth" that is part of their mission statement? And I was envisioning a way in incorporate the "leaves" logo into the worship space. Ah, the interior decorator in me is alive and well.
There were many young people, young families, but also some middle-agers and some elderly folks. More than one wheelchair. All in all, it was a very positive experience, though different. Could I be happy there? I think so. I'm okay with many kinds of church experience. Kevin loved the place and wants to go back. :-) He loved the music and the sermon too, though of course their long-time pastor is about to leave.
At one point, however, he looked at me with his hand placed palm-down in front of his face and moved his hand downward saying, "your hope sinks." Later he told me that there were two times he wanted to say something loudly...thankfully he resisted the temptation! (And I knew exactly when those times were, because I felt the same.) Depending on what happens, or doesn't, I may share about that later.
They have received nearly 50 applications. I'm not sure how that all works, since they are a non-denominational congregation.
I think they have a bright future and it is going to be very important who leads them at this point. Praying about that, and for God's will in all of it...