Thursday, December 28, 2006

10 Myths About Atheism

No matter what you believe or disbelieve, please read this quick article. Myths #9 and #10 actually address something I've brought up before, in this blog.

"Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Imagine Show


Merry Christmas, everyone! It's Christmas Eve, and I hope everyone has had a chance to spend time with their family and their friends.

Despite being up late playing new video games and making room for new books (yeah, we already had part of our Christmas last night), Bradley and I got up bright and early to attend the Imagine Show at Crossroads Community Church.

The show was really a great time. Bradley and I had been looking for a chance to go back to Crossroads, since we'd both really liked it there. This show was a great opportunity, and it did not disappoint. The music was *amazing,* the message was relevant and inspiring, the show itself was flawlessly executed and very funny... it was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, no matter what faith you subscribe to.

Thank you to Rachel, Glenn and Crossroads, all of which invited us to the show. Have a merry Christmas, everyone!

P.S. Sorry for the shoddiness of some of those pictures-- I wanted to capture the magnitude of this show, but it was really hard without my flash. There were a TON of people there, and ours was one of five or six time slots.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sorry that there wasn't a post this week! Bradley and I spent the weekend picking up our brother from college, so we could spend the holidays together. We do have some Christmas Church Hop plans, so hang tight. For now, go spend time with your family. :D

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Church #26: Northstar Vineyard Community Church


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: 9.
BRADLEY: 7, for reasons mentioned in my post.

3. Picture(s) of the church
4. Name/location of the church:
Northstar Vineyard Community Church
Address? It was in the Loveland Middle School auditorium.
www.golovelive.com

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope. It's in the same vicinity as most of our Loveland churches, en route to my grandmother's house.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:30--noon.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Christian.

8. Who did you meet?
Sorry, had to high-tail it... but a friend from college was there! (Hi, Wes! Sorry I had to book it!)

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: This church really blew me away. I'm sad to say that I went in with some major hesitation-- the church we had loosely planned on going to changed their marquee so there were no service times on it, so we had to find an alternative quickly. We'd seen the signs for this church but it was weird to go into a church that was in a school. When we actually parked and headed in, we were still hesitant because everyone outside was pretty young-- high school or younger-- and we weren't sure what we were getting into.

I know Bradley wasn't as enthralled with this church as I was, but I'll let him speak to that himself. After I got inside I really changed my tune-- I liked the idea of using a school auditorium as a church, since a church doesn't necessarily need the space all week long, and the school doesn't need the space on the weekends. I'm sure they get into some scheduling issues now and then, but I liked the idea. It made it feel kind of neutral. I'd been in schools before, and felt a little more inherently welcome there, I guess.

The music started right as we cruised in, and I have to say that the lead singer had one of the most beautiful voices I'd ever heard. He had a great band backing him up and they played songs I'd heard countless other times, but really brought a new energy and passion to it. I was amazed at how different a single song could sound. And here's the other great thing-- the entire auditorium sang along, loud and proud. No one ever said that we should stand or that we should sing, but everyone did. Hearing those songs in boisterous surround sound-- it was really something that I'd been looking for, and there it was.

I found the sermon pretty natural and down-to-earth-- the pastor put a Christmas message in layman's terms, but didn't try to shoehorn modern lingo into it or anything. Like I said, it was natural (except, maybe, when he mentioned the three wise men "whooping it up," haha).

What really, really moved me was communion, though. If you've been reading, you know I've had some issues with communion. Today I feel like I found the perfect ritual (for me!). It's really hard to put into words but of course I'll try.

There were five stations for communion, with the bread and wine but no one manning them. At people's own pace, they started getting up and forming lines behind the stations. Then a group would approach the station-- and by a group I mean a couple, a family, a group of friends, or just an individual-- and take communion at their pace. The rest of the line hung back like it was an ATM, and let the group have their private moment for prayer and reflection.

The atmosphere was amazing to me. The band kept playing and I watched people hold their children and say a quiet prayer together, or a young couple bow their heads together and share a moment. Since everyone was getting up and sitting down at different times, no one paid attention to the fact that Bradley and I were still sitting there. In fact, if you asked me who didn't take communion I absolutely could not tell you. Everyone was clearly in their moment, even in line before the stations-- eyes closed, reading their Bible, talking quietly, whatever.

There were also people waiting to pray with you if you had need for it, and every now and then someone would just get up and join the group to pray together.

Trying to explain it here has stripped it of all the emotion it carried for me. People have asked me how I can "judge" (I hate that word) a church based on one visit, and it's hard to explain that some places just have a feeling that I'm looking for. This is not the right church for everyone, by any stretch of the imagination, but I assume that in each person's own church, they feel something like the warmth I felt today. However they feel it. It's not really something you can express to another person-- that's the magic about it.

Okay, I've rambled on and on and on. This church left me excited about the project and about the journey-- as does each church, really. If anyone needs a break from their home church, stop by Northstar (9am and 10:30 services) and let tell me about your experience. As I'm sure Bradley will illustrate, it won't have the same effect on every person-- but then again, is it supposed to?

Bradley: Usually, there is a template for most churches. I can safely say most places have a few rows of pews, with a raised platform in the front, maybe a small stage. Some have a small tech booth in the back or side, and it's all relatively small. This was the first time I've ever seen an auditorium turned into a church. I was taken back by the great design, and awesome us of color and space.

However, this church-felt like high school. It was mostly because of the teen-oriented atmosphere, and the familiarity of the auditorium feel, but it felt like church mixed with high school. This idea was taken to the next level for me, when the pastor came up. I really could tell he was speaking to a younger audience, because of the way he talked-about family and the true meaning of Christmas.

I did agree with Erica though, the communion of this church was excellent. Just totally excellent. Little groups of friends, or families would gather in a small huddle. Somebody would say a few words, and they would all join together. Now THAT'S a good way to do it. It's small, and personal but lets you know you're not alone. Don't get me wrong, traditional communions are cool too, but I really like this style.

The band also struck a few cords with me, I guess it's just the fact that I can't stand teen bands, and that's what they were. This church just conflicted with some of my personal things, which kind of gave me a bad effect. The church itself was great, with a great meaning and service, but the overall effect was lost on me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Church #25: Northeast Community Church


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: 8.
BRADLEY: 7, it was a very normal church

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
12079 Lebanon Road
Loveland, OH 45140
http://necconline.com

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No; it's on the way to my grandmother's house.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:45--noon.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Christian...

8. Who did you meet?
Dan, Erik, Margaret, Paula... a whole slew of people introduced themselves-- by name-- but I can only remember so many at once...

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: I liked this church immediately because it felt like Christmas. There were Christmas carols playing and the auditorium was decorated with Christmas trees and lights. I'm a sucker for that stuff. (To back up for a second, the place was really easy to navigate-- a lot of clear signs.)

When we sat down we were welcomed immediately, and from all sides. The pastor welcomed us and told us to "be ourselves"-- I think it was the first time someone's actually said that to me in a church.

Then the music started, and I was incredibly happy when they started with a carol. I knew the words! I could sing along (and annoy Bradley in so doing)! It was "Come, O Ye Faithful," and it set the mood for their Christmas message. There were a bunch of other songs, too, which were performed well... upbeat and all that.

The sermon was pretty traditional, and it focused on joy-- what it is, what it means in the Bible, how you can achieve it, etc. Nothing too surprising, especially for a Christmas message, but it got me thinking anyway.

Where can I find a place that helps me be a better person... for humanity's sake? I loved everything about the church except for the idea that I need to be a better person because of God. This is *not* a criticism of the church-- how could it be? But what turns me off time and time again is that I never hear mention of doing good things because we share one world, because we are all human. It's always about praising the Lord, living through Jesus... concepts I'm okay with, but can't it be both? Can't I honor my parents and respect my mentors and love my neighbor... without the middle man?

This is going to get me hate mail, I'm sure. I'm basically saying I want to be a Christian without believing in God. But I feel like if you want to be the best person you can be, you have two options: become a Christian, where they'll give you interesting ideas of how to grow every single week, or not be a Christian and try to glean it from Oprah or something.

The pastor was energetic, articulate, and funny... but I could not connect with the message that told me that being a good person only counted if I was a Christian. (These are not his words, but that's what I drew from it.)

Brad: It's very interesting trying to describe this church. This was a very normal church, a very plain church. Now don't get me wrong, that can be a great thing. I think it would be easy to get carried away as a church, and strung up with ideas, be them classic or modern.

Anyway, it was full of Christmasy things, and even had some great tunes, with a band leader who seemed a little to "into" it. The sermon that followed was very good. I guess the reason most of the sermons given I like, are because you can't become a preacher if you aren't a good speaker. He didn't really raise many questions in my head, or provoke any thoughts-but maybe that's a good thing. I do, however- love when a pastor ties in personal moments into his sermons, and it always makes a sermon feel more "in-depth".

Like I said, I find it hard to reach for words, because this church was just a normal church, maybe THE most normal one I've seen yet.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Church #20 (Lutheran Church of the Resurrection) revisited

This post actually made me lose sleep last night! Haha... I couldn't stop thinking about all the things I needed to say and how it was already Tuesday night.

Okay. First off, thank you all for commenting. I really, truly appreciate all the support. Hopefully you can tell that this project means something to me (and to Bradley, but I let him speak for himself). I hope you'll keep reading, and maybe even posting from time to time.

Secondly, the post! This week was a special situation, and I don't feel it should really be forced into the template that we usually try to follow. We revisited the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. Since we first visited (Church #20, for those of you keeping score at home), I'd been in touch with Pastor Zorn quite a bit. He snail mailed me, then we kept in touch through email, then I met up with him in person, etc. He had concerns about the project. ...Don't we all.

After talking with him in person, Pastor Zorn asked that Bradley and I come to their contemporary service some time (as we'd already been to the traditional service). I assured him that we would do our best, and this week it just worked out for us.

When we got to the church (11:45am service) we noticed that there were fewer cars than there had been last time. We entered the lobby area-- not nearly as scary the second time, haha-- and signed in to the guest book again. There were no greeters this time around, but we were welcomed by a member of the congregation and then Pastor Zorn saw us and welcomed us. We were ushered in to the main auditorium and greeted again by the woman passing out programs and hymnals.

Then it got weird, because when Bradley and I were sitting down, we heard our names. Sitting in front of us were two women talking about us, and we weren't really sure why. We flipped open our programs and there, stuck in the middle, were printouts of the LCR Church Hop entry. The day's sermon was about whether or not worship should be evaluated.

I was... dumbstruck? Pastor Zorn had warned us that he was going to talk about the blog at one of his services-- I had no idea it was going to be the one we were sitting in, and that it was the focus of the sermon. ...Wow.

(I've been wrong to omit the Joyful Noise band-- there was lively music playing through the entire service by a small band up front as part of the contemporary service. Hence the separate hymnal/songbook/whateveryoucallit. They were great and energetic but Bradley and I were more than a little distracted by the goings on.)

The sermon was-- eye-opening. I really enjoyed it, though I was pretty embarrassed. Pastor Zorn didn't point us out or anything, which was great. He talked about going to church with a consumer mentality, which struck me as slightly hurtful until I really thought about it. Yeah, I guess that's what I do. Is that wrong?

That was his question too, and he didn't draw a definite line. He talked about blogs, about today's mentality in general, about what worship should be and what Lutheran worship should be. All very even and fair, in my opinion.

Then it took a turn for the personal (not in a bad way)-- he told the congregation about meeting me, and paraphrased what I had told him about the project. He treated the subject respectfully and from what I could see, the congregation didn't hate the idea of the project. I have to admit that I was worried that someone would say something horrible, not knowing that I was sitting right there in the pew. (It was a stupid thing to be anxious about but put yourself in my shoes for a second.)

Communion time. If you remember, it was after the LCR Church Hop that I asked my question about communion-- what do you do if you don't take communion? I listened when he was explaining it, then Bradley and I came forward (with everyone else) and we folded our arms. Pastor Zorn gave communion to his congregation and when it was our turn, quietly blessed us. It was a scary step but it was the least I could do-- not only for me and for Bradley, but for Pastor Zorn and for a church who were welcoming and accepting to our ideas.


In the past couple weeks, I've been given a lot to think about. This was the icing on the cake, I guess. Like most people, I have times when I want to change the world. I want to leave my mark. Especially as a writer-- I want my words to affect people. Sitting there and listening to a sermon that I clearly had a hand in-- it was crazy. I'm still not sure how to react to all of it-- I wasn't prepared, and it happened so quickly.

I have a lot to mull over. Recently I've been getting a lot of questions, and some of them will always be hard for me to answer. "What do you believe?" "What are you looking for?" "When will this be over?" I've never forced myself to answer these questions, but they're coming from other people now. I guess they'll all be answered at once-- when I know what I believe, and if I understand what I am looking for... then I guess it will be over. For now I want to push this project further. I've learned a lot so far, but what is now becoming clear is just how much I don't know.

Brad: Wow. I can't say that I've ever had a sermon that was tailored around a blog, or a certain group of people who were question the goings on of the local churches.

Coming around the second time was a lot different from the first, not to state the obvious, but I was more relaxed, and felt more comfortable with meeting Pastor Zorn, and what was about to happen. When Erica and I walked in, our heads were turned by the actual use of our names. Bradley Garwood said out loud. It was extremely weird. Despite that fact that people seemed to have an idea of who we are, it didn't hit the climax until we opened our programs. In the handout, was a copy of our exact post (via blogger) with little copies of the photos just how they are on the site.

When Pastor Zorn got up to speak-after the great band finished a few songs-it was such a great sermon. It filled my head with a wild assortment of ideas about what I believe in. Questions in my mind about the "ethics" of our church hopping. This was a great example of how our hopping effects people. I watched the heads of the people listening. Bobbing motions followed almost everything he said, as people stuck to his words. I can admit I was one of those people.

I can safely say that this is one the best sermons I have ever heard.

Later in the service, we put our new-found knowledge about communion, and about just going up and bowing your head, with hands folded. This was very awkward, I must admit more awkward than sitting there, but it felt good to be doing what seemed like the right thing in most of our eyes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Explanations

Alright. As you can see, no church again this week. A lot has been going on behind the scenes of Church Hop, and that is what I would like to talk about today.

For better or for worse, this blog has recently gotten some attention from several groups and individuals. I'm not going to mention names or groups for a number of reasons, the most important reason being because I feel I need to respond to all of them at once.

I would like to start with some general defense of this blog. At this point I would like to state that I am speaking for MYSELF-- Bradley, my brother and co-blogger, doesn't even know I'm writing this right now, so leave him out of it.

1. I have done the best job I can to keep this blog open. Comments are enabled and I have responded to almost every one individually. My e-mail address is easily found on my profile, and I have responded to e-mails personally. I leave the URL at every church that I visit, so that I am not sneaking behind their backs and "picking on them"-- they have access to the blog immediately, and they are just as able to e-mail me and comment as anyone else.

2. I gain nothing from this blog itself. We don't advertise, we have no sponsors, no one is paying us in any way to do this project. What I gain from Church Hop is personal, which leads me to...

3. ...My journey. I am being criticized a lot for going into churches with no intention of finding God. That, dear readers, is your assumption. What "agnostic" means to different people varies greatly, but for me, personally, it boils down to a search. I accept that there might be a God. That's one of many options to me, and one that I feel is worth exploring.

I come from a small, close-minded town. I grew up without religion, and no one laid the options out for me. The people I knew who went to church "chose" that church because that's where they had been going for all of their lives. What I wanted for both myself and for my younger brother was a chance to get a feel for what different churches were like, first hand. I wanted him to make his decisions based on experience, not based on habit or discomfort with exploration. That's where this started-- a small town where you have to seek out diversity and new opinions.

This is my "church." My idea of church is visiting different ones, meeting different people, getting a look at how different people praise their different ideas of God (or gods or whatever they believe). It is no more ridiculous than your ideas, no matter what they are.

4. I have been as honest as I can be while still being diplomatic and open-minded. If at any point I have been critical of an aspect of a church, I have done my best to re-state that these are my opinions. I am entitled to them, just as you are entitled to have your opinions of this blog. I have been crystal clear that I am an uneducated church-goer, and I have nothing but first impressions to go by.

5. The rating at the beginning of each entry (which will be going away soon, as noted over a week ago) expresses Bradley and my comfort level with a church. Not how good a church is, not how right their ideas are, but how comfortable they made us feel while we were there. All churches are different but they do have one thing in common: we have to make the first step into their doors. I guess I can see how you might think this is "judgment," but to me it is putting a number on how I, as a person, felt in a church, based on a number of factors.

6. I have never asked a church to change, nor would I ever do that in the future. The only reason I have pointed out the blog to them is so that they don't feel I've been doing something secretive and back-handed. I never leave it as a "here's what you're doing wrong" hint. I am a firm believer in "to each his own."

7. As a rule, we only visit churches that say "Welcome" or have their service times listed on the marquee. Maybe they're assuming that it says "Welcome Christians" or "Welcome if you're already certain what/who God is," but that's not how everyone reads it. We all have to start somewhere, whether we're 15, 23, or 140 years old when we decide to make our major life decisions.


That's all I have time for right now. There will almost certainly be an "Explanations Part Two" when I get a little more time. For now, that should give you something to react to.

To the people who criticize my blog and/or me as a person: say what you will. That's the joy of the internet, to me. It's what I'm doing and I would be a hypocrite to ask that you only say nice things. But I also invite you to say them here, on the blog, so that I can respond to them and defend myself once in a while.

Also, I ask these same people to scroll back one entry to where I asked for feedback. If there is a way that you think we can make this blog more fair, more of an exploration for everyone, please let me know.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Overhaul?

Sorry guys, no new church today! Bradley and I had company in from Columbus and we elected to take some time off.

BUT!

I do have a question for you, oh loyal readers. I really want to overhaul Church Hop soon (first of the year seems as good a time as any). What are we missing? What would you change? What aren't we pursuing enough? Read through the charter and the questions we answer each week, if you get a chance. Then leave a comment (or email me, redrabbit[at]gmail.com) with your suggestions.

Changes I'm considering:

*It's pretty obvious that we need to branch out... haven't even hit a Catholic church yet, much less a synagogue or something.

*Removal of the rating number. In our heads, the rating number is a scale of how welcome we felt in the church. However, we have heard mention that the rating seems like a comparison of churches, and that's not what we're aiming for at all. Is there a better way to scale something like this, or should it go away altogether?

Church Hop has quite a few readers, so I hope that you guys will chime in and help to shape where this project is heading. I am surprised, to tell you the truth, that it's still running at all. Back in April, I wouldn't have guessed that we would find so much of a journey behind the project but we've had great support and enormous interest, so onward we go.

That being said, Bradley and I absolutely invite your feedback.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Church #24: Eastgate Baptist Church



1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

ERICA: 6.5.
BRADLEY: 5. This was a very average church.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Eastgate Baptist Church
717 Barg Salt Run
Cincinnati, OH 45244
http://eastgatebaptistchurch.com

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Kind of... by a giant electronic billboard that can be seen from 275.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:45am--12:20pm. Yikes.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Baptist.

8. Who did you meet?
Sorry, had to high-tail it after services.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: First off, this church is hard to find. I knew it existed because of a giant electronic marquee that you can see from 275. However, I had no way of actually finding the church, until the marquee finally finally flashed its address and I was able to reverse-engineer some directions out of it.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled in was that there was designated "widow parking." This was a first for me.

We were greeted warmly (I need a new adverb) when we arrived, and it was clear where we were supposed to go because people were swarming in. We found a seat with some personal space but for the most part the church was fairly full.

There was a lot of singing. There was a mini-sermon/speech and then the real sermon, delivered by a traveling preacher. I liked this guy; he had moxie. Toward the end it took the standard turn toward "it's time to accept Christ, if you haven't"... but I didn't mind it much, because I really liked the personal stories and message that the guy brought with him. The only reason I was kind of itching to go was because we were heading for the two-hour mark. (Coincidence: a sermon about sacrificing things for the church, as I am sweating because I'm late enough to practice that I need to skip lunch, haha.)

Then more songs. More talking. Then *four* baptisms. I hated feeling like I had to hurry hurry hurry because I felt that I really had to miss a warm moment. All four kids were in the same family and they seemed very sweet. I wanted to really enjoy watching this rite of passage but I was already looking for my way out.

On the whole the church was inviting and really operated like a community. While I don't think that Baptist is "the religion for me," they seemed to have their hearts in the right place, from organizing their missions to trying to make guests feel welcomed.

Oh! Just remembered... ack. When Bradley and I first got to our seats, we looked for the visitor cards. There were none, so we put our info on a tithe envelope. Then, after one of the songs when the congregation was standing, the pastor asked that guests raise their hands to get a visitor card to fill out. Uhhhhh... no. I'm typically not a shy person but with everyone standing there, looking around to see who raised their hands... that was not going to happen. I felt so incredibly put on the spot by that. I think that if you don't keep your visitor cards in the pews or in the weekly program, you ought to just make mention of where to find them as you're leaving. Being singled out when you're in a strange new church is a terrifying feeling, and I doubt I'm alone on that.

BRADLEY: Earlier, Erica was talking about the large sign out out front that made this church had to find. While this had us looking around for a while, trying to find the church, we finally pulled into the "visitor" spot-and headed in. Despite the friendly greetings, and the large amount of people, everyone seemed to wrapped up in their own little worlds, talking about family and friends.

We got in and took some seats near(ish) the front. After a forever of songs, they headed into the announcments-which felt ackward to me. The man giving the announcments kept talking about the Mexican children that the donations were helping. In my mind, the way he was saying that just didn't feel right. Anyway, when sermon time rolled around, I was very happy with how it went.

The speaker was a king older gentleman, who was just sooo cool. His voice had a strange little accent to it, and his stories were amazing. The message finally formed into a sad shape by the end, but everything wrapped up in a nice little package. While the sermon was amazing, the actual service started to run very long. Maybe the longest we've been to yet. And then, on top of that, they were haveing four baptizms. While this wasn't a problem, it did however, compound the time. But finally, the church service was over, and left me feeling good.

I loved that sermon.


*****

Also! We received thank you letters from First Church. You're welcome to read it... let me know if you need me to transcribe. It's a form letter, which is why I'm not writing it out, but we definitely still appreciate the gesture of getting something in the mail as a follow-up.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Church #23: First Church of Christ (Burlington, KY)


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: 5?
BRADLEY: 6ish, for the reasons listed below.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
First Church of Christ
6080 Camp Ernst Road
Burlington, KY 41005
www.1stchurchofchrist.org

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Um... yes! Brian Heckber, the "Pastor of Involvement" at this church, emailed me to ask if we would stop by and "see how we are doing." I was more than happy to, but the request was kind of surprising to me.

6. Time/duration of services:
9:30am--11am.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
They say on their website that they are non-denominational, but I question that.

8. Who did you meet?
No one, but not exactly for lack of trying.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: As I said, the request to visit this church was kind of... surprising. For one thing, it's at least half an hour from any church we'd be to thus far, so it definitely seemed out of the blue. Still, it's exciting for me to hear that a church actually wants us to visit them, and doesn't feel duped or used.

I think what Brian wanted was to see if we felt welcomed. For that reason I'm going to be as detailed (and as honest) as I can be.

Right when we got there we realized it was a much larger church than we had guessed at. Cars flooded the parking lot and since we were coasting in just before 9:30 (underestimated how long the drive would take) I was nervous about finding a spot. However, I saw a sign pointing to guest parking, and there were some spots right up front for guest to use. That rocked.

When we got inside we wanted to look around but I could hear that the service was beginning. We were greeted very warmly right away and shown to the main lobby. There were two places to go immediately-- one that was clearly for teens/the younger crowd, and one that seemed to be a more traditional worship service. I'm not sure which one I was "supposed" to go to but I headed for the more traditional, because that's typically where I feel more at home. I'm not really into the cool-for-cool's-sake kind of church, and I could tell just from peering inside that it was a loud-music-and-strobe-lights kind of deal. (Just first impressions-- I'm sure the services are awesome.)

When we got inside the place was packed. By the time we got our seats the place was completely full-- and we're talking about a huge auditorium here. A few minutes into the first song, every single seat was filled (ushers were helping to fill them) and a few people were standing in the back. Something was odd about the room, to me-- I realized that there were zero windows and zero decorations, so it was a giant, drab gray room. Nothing hanging on the walls. I even had to search for the cross, which was hidden under the projector screen.

The music was nice-- I felt more that I was being sung at than being asked to participate, but I definitely didn't mind. The songs were traditional but heartfelt, loud but well-sung. The lyrics always kept up on screen, but again I really felt that I was supposed to watch, not participate. This went on for a while, but not annoyingly long.

It was at this point that I noticed the bulletin didn't have a schedule in it. I really like when the bulletin has a list of when communion is (if they take it), when offering is collected, etc. It saves me from putting my offering in the wrong plate, as has almost happened a couple of times, and gives me a chance to prepare a little. No luck this time. The bulletin was pretty much geared to members.

The sermon came next, and this is when I started to wonder what "non-denominational" meant. For a non-denominational church, they certainly make a lot of decisions about who is and who isn't going to heaven. They take the Bible pretty literally. They laid down some rules that I felt a non-denominational church shouldn't be committing to, because in my head it means that any number of belief systems can exist under the same roof. I would love if someone from First Baptist could respond and let me know how they view non-denomination, because while they didn't make me uncomfortable by mentioning groups of people who might not enter heaven (homosexuals, abortionists, whatever), it definitely seemed as though there was a specific belief system being practiced at this church.

After the sermon they took communion (as a congregation by passing the trays around, which I was happy about until the guy next to me gave me The Look) and then took offering (the lady passing the bowl was really impatient with Bradley and I wrestling with our wallets). After another dozen prayers and a solo song (very good), services were over... for most people.

At the beginning and at the end of service, the preacher mentioned that guests should come to the front after services. "We want to meet you." Bradley and I thought that was cool. Then... when services were over... we went down to the front, where we'd been instructed (twice) to go. ...And we stood there. Other people were conversing but I didn't even know who I should talk to... no one approached us and I couldn't find the preacher who'd told us to come down front. We stood there. No one said anything to us. I had no way of knowing if there was someone I should talk to specifically and I wasn't about to just start asking random people. After a few minutes of feeling really weird, Bradley and I left.

I was excited to go to this church, especially with the honor of the invitation we'd received. I think there is a lot of potential with the way they tried to welcome us, but in many areas it kind of misfired and we were left hanging. Thank you so much for the invitation, Brian, and I hope this helps. I hope we'll get a chance to visit again some day and maybe hit up the youth service.

BRADLEY: Well, Erica and I were very excited to go to this church, because of our invitation to go to this church. It was a little further than any other church we've been to, but it didn't matter.

When we got there, the church was very large, and teaming with cars. We found our spot, and walked in. After a quick at-door greeting, and some exploring, we realized we needed to head into the service. There was two different ones, one for an older group, and one for a younger audience. We headed into the older one, where everyone was standing, and listening to the music. The music went on for way too long.

When everyone sat down, they jumped right into the message, and the preacher who gave the message was a very static and energetic man. He was very happy and upbeat, and gave everything a great. He was just a great speaker. He started off with a story (that was obviously fictional) that was very funny, and a great lead-in to his message about the new heaven and earth.

This church was very large, but still didn't have the personal touch I would have liked. It's very had to explain, but everything seemed so new and clean, like it hadn't been used to the full potential, and they everything was glossed over. The programs were thick with text, and didn't show much enthusiasm. Regardless of this, the church was pretty good, and the speaker was amazing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Church #22: Clough United Methodist Church


(Hey! If you haven't read last week's guest hop, be sure to check it out!)

1. Who attended? Bradley, Erica and Bill!

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: I think I'd say a 5.
BRADLEY: I'm going to say 5 as well
BILL: 7.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Clough United Methodist Church
2010 Wolfangel Road
Cincinnati, OH 45255
http://cloughchurch.org

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope... it's on a road we are familiar with.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:30am--almost noon.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Methodist.

8. Who did you meet?
No one in particular.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: I'd been excited about this church for a while because it seemed so beautiful. It sits atop a hill, has a giant bell, flag and cross, and has hints of stained glass all along the outside.

When you get inside it really is just as beautiful as it lets on. The windows are absolutely gorgeous-- I only got a picture of one because taking pictures in a church is weird. The room is bright and large. Oh, and then you walk into the lobby area, there are signs pointing you toward the various parts of the church-- thank you. :)

One of the first things I noticed was the table of nametags-- most people wore them through the entire service. I thought this was a great idea and that it really spoke to the welcome feeling of the church. However, no one really went out of their way to welcome us, even during fellowship. Don't get me wrong; it was not hostile at all. It just felt as though they had their own community and if we wanted to enter it, that was up to us.

I really liked Pastor Jonathan. He was very animated (I overuse that word, don't I?) and cheerful. The service from start to finish was incredibly long, especially if you're not a regular member of the church because there were entire (unneccessarily long) presentations about the current finances of the church, for example. Even with the music at a minimum (a few unenthusiastic hymns and a very impressive song by a member of the congregation), I felt like I was there for an eternity.

BRADLEY: Erica and I have seen this church for many years. It's been driven by, by so many people, that everyone has seen it. Well, for the first time, I finally got to go in. When we all three walked in, I noticed the large group of nametags sitting on the tables in the lobby for it's members. Kind of ackward not having a "members" tag (and if there was, we didn't see it), but everything else was a slow pace as we shuffled into the main room.

This room was very cool, the wood theme, on top of the long size of it all, and when you combined it with the stained glass windows, everything looked great. I can't say the same for the actual service. When the announcments came on, a very nice guy went through the weekley goings-on. Then came a very ackward and slow message about there program of giving more to the church. There are so many ways to hint and ask, but I realize at one point, you're going to have to address the congregation. It just seemed like it could have been more prepaired.

Then came the sermon, giving by a very intresting fellow. At first glance, he seemed like an average guy, but with his slight accent, and slow speech-it was totally different. I don't know why, but I really like him, and while his message was a little shaky at times, it all wrapped up nicley.

BILL: Today was my first time attending an official service at a non-Catholic church, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. The Catholic mass is very methodical, structured, and, at times less than captivating. My only basis for what services are like within other denominations has been television, which isn't exactly a trusted source. Regardless, it has left the impression that more upbeat churches exist and Clough United Methodist Church met that expectation.

We were greeted by several people which made me feel welcome. The pastor, John, seemed really excited to be there and lead the congregation and I appreciated his enthusiasm. You can't expect the congregation to be enthusiastic unless they are led as such. During the the part of the service where those around us shared recent joys and concerns from their lives, everyone appeared to know each other fairly well. Pastor John was familiar with their names and situations. That is something that is less common in a larger congregation like the one I've attended, and seemed like it would be really nice.

The part of the service I least enjoyed was the segment on finances, especially the part where they listed how many people gave certain amounts regularly. It seemed like telling the people who gave less than the norm what they ought to. Churches do cost money to operate, so it is a necessary evil I suppose (for lack of a better term). All in all, it was a good church experience for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Church #21b: McLean Bible Church (guest hop!)

Hurrah! Guest Church Hopper Rachel sent me this review of a church she visited in McLean, Virginia. I really, really appreciate this kind of remote Church Hopping... so if you've done any lately, send me a report! (Not on your home church, please.) Without further ado... Rachel & co's guest hop!

1. Who attended? Rachel, Andrew, Amy and Paul

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

Rachel: 7
The other people: Averaged out at a 7, too.

3. Picture(s) of the church

I didn’t know that I’d be writing a Church Hop, but I DID take some pictures. They aren’t of the regular sanctuary, but of the Jr. High room – it was awesome!!! The rest of the church was WAY more traditional than the Jr. High room. It was mostly white. White walls and counters – with green carpet and chairs. The main auditorium was one big room with graduated seating towards the back. I read in a info sheet that it holds 1500 people.


4. Name/location of the church:
McLean Bible Church

McLean, Virginia

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
We were visiting my brother in DC, so we went with him.

6. Time/duration of services:
We went to the 9:00 service; it was just over an hour.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Non-denominational my sister-in-law says. It was pretty close to feeling Baptist if you ask me.


8. Who did you meet?
A few people who worked there, including a lady who ran the special needs ministry for kids with disabilities. I was really interested in that, but she seemed too busy to answer any of my questions. The volunteer at the Jr. High room was SUPER nice.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc
We got a handout of all the upcoming events when we walked in. It was like a small novel. Lots of stuff going on at this church! There were ads for weekend seminars, groups, and it explained the 5 different services you could go to.

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

RACHEL: As we drove up Amy yells, “A parking garage? I can’t believe they have a parking garage!!” She has designed churches as an architect and tells me that to build a parking garage you spend $25,000 per parking space instead of $1500 per space for a parking lot. WOW – that’s a big difference. As we walk up there are people walking in that are in jeans, some are in khakis, some are wearing ties. I guess anything goes! We feel welcomed by the “greeting team” (not sure what they are called) as we walk in. The people are generally nice, and we follow my brother into the main sanctuary. They do point out where the bathrooms are (down a hall and around the corner) in case we need to find them later. We’re all toting our Bibles along with us. Not because my bother told us to, but because we saw that he and my sister-in-law had them, so we bring ours to fit in. Good thing we did. Lots of people are carrying in Bibles.

We take a seat front and center. The giant screens have several community announcements going on, and then the service starts with music. It’s a lady singing and playing piano, she’s very good. We sing several songs. Then the pastor walks out. He announces that we are going to take communion. I get nervous. Instantly, I get nervous. Will I know what to do? They pass it down the isles, so that’s easy enough. But then, we have these little plastic shot glasses … what do we do with those? Amy and I stack ours and put them on the floor for now. More songs, and then more. There is about 30 minutes of music. That’s a little on the heavy side for me, but hey – some people could sing the whole hour. After several songs, they show a video on the big screens. A lady is telling a story, but it is very vague. Then, that same lady comes out and does an interpretive dance. That is a first for me! She was a good dancer, but I wish that the video would have told the story. Instead she just said she had gone through a hard time, and God was there for her. I want some details! The pastor comes back and gives a serman about how to know the path that God wants you on. I agree with some of his points, and disagree with others. He is using a lot of churchy language that I am not used to. I get somewhat distracted by the churchy language from time to time. The pastor is a Jew for Jesus – he was Jewish, and then became a Christian. I think that is fascinating, and I wish that I could ask him a bunch of questions about that. We never crack open our Bibles.

The service ends, and they invite all new people to a 10 minute info session following the service. As good church hoppers, we go. It’s a small room with seating for about 20 people, and the room is full. The pastor comes in, and I’m impressed that he took the time to do that. He tells us what the church’s mission is, and that he is glad that we are there. He introduces us to the “pastor of new people” and she is very well spoken, and well dressed. They tell us they know that the church is big, and that you can get lost (apparently 10,000 people go there), so they have the “pastor of new people” to help you meet new people, volunteer, answer your questions, etc. I think to myself, “this meeting is a GREAT idea”. It really was nice to know exactly what was going on there and who to ask questions.

We leave the meeting and my brother and sister-in-law go to get flu shots (YES – they were doing flu shots at church). So, the four of us go exploring. We see the kids area and the Jr. High room. The lady who is running check in at the Jr. High room invites us in to see the place. It is awesome – a skateboard ramp, video games, and arcade games – very cool (see pictures).

The one thing that bothered me about this church is that you have to pay for everything. You pay for coffee, a CD of the service, pamphlets, seminars and classes that you want to take. A few times we started to pick something up, and then saw it was a few bucks. That was a little shocking. Better go to the ATM before you go to church. There was a full coffee shop and a café on site!

All in all, not bad. I wasn’t offended, nor was I challenged to change anything about my life. I missed free coffee.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Church #21: Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church


1. Who attended? Bradley and Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

ERICA: 1, I guess.
BRADLEY: 1, for the lack of everything.

3. Picture(s) of the church
4. Name/location of the church:
Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No, it's right off of 32 so we stopped by.

6. Time/duration of services:
Really? Not sure. The sign says 10, 11 and 6pm.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Baptist.

8. Who did you meet?
HA!

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc
Not applicable.

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: So, the sign seems pretty clear, right? WELCOME, worship services, Sunday 10, 11 and 6. Right? Well Bradley and I get there and we go inside, and there are about seven guys on the stage setting up music equipment, and there are two women sitting in the front pews. I make eye contact with one of them and smile, and she doesn't so much as acknowledge me but keeps talking to her friend.

The guys give us no acknowledgement either, so Bradley and I make our way to a pew in the middle of the church. Everyone keeps doing what they're doing. Everyone has clearly seen us, and we're just sitting there on our own.

15ish minutes pass.

No one has said a single word to us. No one has smiled in our direction. They talk amongst themselves cheerily. It's quarter past ten now, so Bradley and I assume service is... cancelled? Postponed? We have no way of knowing... no one has told us, there are no pamphlets anywhere about a special service, and the sign outside is pretty clearly marked for 10am.

This is not okay by me. Do you know what a difficult thing it is to do, to walk into a new church? If you don't want newcomers, take down your freaking sign that invites us in. If you have a special service, that's FINE, but let me know when I walk into your church and don't make me sit there like an idiot.

When we left, I told Bradley that I didn't want to waste our church time... we had woken up, gotten dressed and set that time aside. So now, without further ado, today's real Hop.

Bradley: This was crazy. Erica and I tried to get back in the grove of things with a Church Hop, and what happens when we get there?

Nothing.

Erica and I cruised around the parking lots of some local 'hoods until it was time to go into the church. We stopped in the parking lot like we usually do, waiting for someone else, because of the few cars. We slowley waited until the time was right, when we walked into the church's main room. When we got in, there were five or six people on stage, all holding guitars. We wern't greeted by anyone, and nobody said anything. Erica and I were all alone, sitting in the pew, waiting for someone to say something about the lack of service.

This was very upsetting, and it was very annoying. This was not a good church hop.


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

ERICA: 6. I wouldn't call it thought-provoking.
BRADLEY:

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Busken Bakery
7756 Beechmont Avenue

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Busken needs no recommendation.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:30ish to 10:45ish.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
The snackish kind.

8. Who did you meet?
I think Jolene rang us up.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc
Not applicable.

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: Much better. Busken was warm and inviting. We spent the money that would have gone to today's offering on iced pumpkin cookies and milk. The music was lacking and the congregation was small, but I felt very "at home" in this intimate little place.

Bradley: Nothing beats a good pumpkin cookie and a bottle of milk on a sunday morning. The woman who served us was kind and prompt, and kept things going. There was also a small amount of people there, who didn't seem to mind us. It was great, regardless of the lack of people.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

No new church this week!

Sorry to disappoint but we had company this weekend! We stayed up to watch the sunrise and it kind of threw off the sleep schedule a little bit.

But no matter! We got some really great feedback from Pastor Zorn from last week's church. In fact, he sent us a personal letter (sorry, he asked that I not post it here) and I might be meeting up with him to discuss Church Hop. The feedback was not completely negative but he did express concerns and I think that our pending discussion will really help to shape Church Hop for the future.

We have also had some (more positive) feedback from someone who attends Crossroads (if you'd like me to link to your blog, let me know!). All in all it's been a crazy week for Church Hop, even without visiting a new church.

Lutheran Church of the Resurrection sent us a "thank you for visiting" letter and information packet. Here are the scans; let me know if you'd like to see anything in particular. Again, sorry for the lack of church this week, but be sure to check back for information about my rendezvous with Pastor Zorn!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Church #20: Lutheran Church of the Resurrection


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: 7.
Bradley: 6, there was a lot to take in.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Lutheran Church of the Resurrection
1950 Nagel Road
Cincinnati, OH 45255
http://www.lcresurrection.org/

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope-- Bradley found this church in passing.

6. Time/duration of services:
9:15am--11am.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Lutheran.

8. Who did you meet?
Many people, especially Kris and Lisa, made us feel welcome. We were also able to meet Pastor Zorn after service.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: I was mostly comfortable here-- we were welcomed right away, shown to the colorful and brightly-lit auditorium, etc. The room was even brighter than usual, as their quilting club had put together quilts for Lutheran World Relief, and they were all over the seats, waiting to be dedicated by the congregation. The room was really beautiful and comfortable.

As with the other Lutheran church we've visited (not last week, as Bradley misspoke, but back in May), the service is too strict for my taste. Granted, the congregation did not seem to be phoning it in at all-- they seemed truly engaged. Still, the "sit now, stand now" approach just doesn't fit with me. I feel too confined; there was very little opportunity for personal reflection and expression.

One thing that was different about Lutheran C of the R-- not only from Prince of Peace but really from all churches we've been to-- is child involvement. When the prelude was being played I winced as a few notes were missed, until I realized that it was a very young girl playing the piano. Kids helped usher, lit the candles, and even read the lessons. They seemed to take it very seriously and did an amazing job with their responsibilities. This really impressed me.

I really liked the pastor-- I thought he was animated and articulate. The service was waaaaay too long for my taste, but what can ya do. This isn't my religion to mess with.

Here's a question I put to anyone who's reading this: I don't take communion, as I feel it's wrong when I don't really believe in what it symolizes, and I feel it would insult the people who do. However, in places like LCR, I felt really embarrassed to be the only one sitting (well, with Bradley) while the rest of the congregation was in a circle in the front. What is the best way to deal with this? This is not the first time that I've felt this way-- some churches pass around the Eucharist and etc, and that makes it a little easier to pass on. But when it's a big event like this... is there a more discreet way to pass on communion? Just a talking point; any feedback is welcome.

Bradley: I'll tell 'ya, this church was beautiful. The looks of this church were what attracted me to go there in the first place. It looked like a giant glass egg, just sitting on a hill. I was very curious upon entry to find out what buildling would look like, and I was very pleased.

We signed in, in the guestbook (for some odd reason, that's only the second guest thing we signed, that wasn't a card, but rather a book), and talked a little with some people from the lobby, who were telling us about the church. They covered some of the things they do, and led us into a brief hallway, full of hand-made quilts. They were all very, very well made. I was taken back by the thought of how much time had to have gone into those. Very impressive.

We walked in, and took our seats, past the small pool of running water. I only say that, because of the destinct sound it made when the room was quiet. We sat down, and got situated, and started to skim our hand-outs, when the morning service started. It was a new thing for me to see teens and kids taking part in the morning service, (lighting candles and such) and it made me think, what is required to do something like that? Hm.

Anyway, they played a few songs, and gave some morning announcements about what's going on. To be honest, I wasn't really listening, because I was still gazing around the large glass windows. It wasn't too long before the sermon started. At first, I really had a hard time getting in the pastors grove, but I guess in retrospect, I really liked the sermon he gave. He pulled in a few messages with references to himself (something I always like), and a strong connection to the church members. The most odd part, was of course, communion. Sitting there, and being the only ones not observing the tradition is a little strange, and makes you feel like an outcast. Erica brought up a very good point in her post, because I sometimes don't belive in some of the traditions, but I don't want to be doing them just to do them, that's wrong for the people that DO belive in it. It's very odd, and this church really made me think about it too.

********
Also! This week Bradley and I received this thank you letter from Anderson Hills Christian Church, which we attended last week. It reads:

Dear Bradley and Erica:

We were very happy to have you worship with us this past Sunday and I was glad to have the chance to meet you. I do hope that you were blessed by your time with us.

I invite you to join us again for worship and to have the chance to get to know you better. We do have an active youth fellowship that meets twice a month and sometimes includes some students from the Glen Este campus. Out next meeting is on Sunday, October 8th at 5:00 p.m. and we invite you to join us.

In His Love,
Nik Donges
Pastor

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Church #19: Anderson Hills Christian Church


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: 5, and then 4, and then 8!
BRADLEY: 7, because of the saving-tour

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Anderson Hills Christian Church
8119 Clough Pike
Cincinnati, OH 45244

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope. We just pass it from time to time.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:30--11:30am.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Disciples of Christ.
8. Who did you meet?
This church was probably the most welcoming we've been to so far. We shook a lot of hands.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: To be honest, this church didn't start off on the best possible foot. We were definitely welcomed right away by a few people, but then the service itself was unastounding. Plus, it was the kind of church that is very rehearsed (sit here, stand here, say this now, sit here, stand here), which is still a turn-off to me.

The music was nice-- there was a small choir and they sounded really good. They only did a couple songs, and we didn't have to stand through them all. I always appreciate that.

The sermon was uninspired even though the pastor seemed like a nice enough guy. It was very traditional and I didn't seen anyone in the congregation getting too "into it."

We didn't take communion, as we usually don't, but it was an interesting ceremony to me, because there still seemed to be some ritual to it. That was refreshing to me and that's when it climbed from a 4 to a 5. Most churches we've been to that take communion do it individually, but this church took communion together and I really liked that. I guess it's wrong of me to say that I dislike the strict discipline of the services but then appreciate the communion ritual-- call me a hypocrite, I'm just calling it like I see it.

What bumped the number way up for me actually occurred after the service. We could hardly take a step without someone else shaking our hand, but that's somewhat typical. What really changed it was Don-- sorry, I've forgotten his last name. Don introduced us to other people, using our first names right off the bat. He then offered to give us a tour of the church, which I'm making a big deal about because that has never happened to us before. Why?! We've felt so welcome in some churches but I have never been offered a tour. If I were looking for a new church home that would be such a huge gesture to me!

Don ushered us around the nursery, kitchen, common area, etc and talked about what goes on in various parts of the church. He also introduced us along the way, and with each "This is Erica and this is Bradley," I felt a little more at home. It can be nerve-wrecking to go around repeating your name a thousand times, especially when you're not on your own turf. To any churches reading this, especially small ones, offer a tour. It is the simplest thing but maybe you forget how daunting a new church can be.

Based on that welcome, I'd love to go back some day. As is sometimes the case, it was the actual religion that rubbed me the wrong way (not a BAD thing, just not MY thing), but the people themselves were warm and good-hearted. They invited us to their potluck lunch but we already had plans; I would have loved to stay.

BRADLEY:This church, was a misfire.

It was very odd, Erica is always trying to get me to find us a church, so I finally did. So, instead of us going, we both overslept, and with a haze of forgetting the time, we just decsided to go to the chuch right next to it. It's all good. They were both Lutheran, and they both seemed fine. Anyway, when we got into this church, it was full of people in the lobby. Young and old, each slowley filling up the place, as they entered in.

When sis and I took our seat, we looked around, and suddenly, the numbers had dropped. There were very few people in there, but they were all VERY friendley, and they all seemed to want us to stay. So, we sat down, and went through the morning announcements. After all that was said and done, we listened to the sermon.

Not the best, not the worst. The preacher was very cool, with his unplaceable accent, but he gave a simple message, with grace and care, but it didn't quite have the punch it needed, due to a lacking congregation, and an A/V outtage. But, regardless, the church made-up for itself when everything was over. For the FIRST time ever, somebody offered us a tour of the church. We didn't say yes just to be nice, Erica and I actually wanted a tour of the church, because this was such a cool and new expirence. The man that lead us around, pointed everything out, and indroduced us to everyone. That made such an impact on me, because they really took time out of there way to do that.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Church #18: Summerside


1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

ERICA: 5.
BRADLEY: 5, this was an average church.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Sorry-- I'm used to having pamphlets and things! I forget the exact name of the church-- I'll amend that as soon as I can. So sorry!!

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No-- it's less than a block from our house.

6. Time/duration of services:
11:00am--noon.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Christian.

8. Who did you meet?
The church was very friendly, but I didn't catch any names.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc
Absolutely none were made available. There wasn't even a visitor card for us to leave.

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: This church was... alright. Right away we were welcomed by the majority of the congregation, as is standard with smaller churches. We were also asked if we could sing because the church has no one to lead their hymns. That was a little heartbreaking. It was a prodominately "old church," and the old guys played a good guitar. The people who did sing were pretty bad, but at least they tried. I can't imagine a church without music.

When the sermon started, it was a little uncomfortable. The preacher cried through the entire sermon and spoke about his divorces and how God steered him through. I'm a little torn about hwo to feel about the entire ordeal-- for one thing, you know I love a church with some passion behind it. That man definitely felt his message (and spoke against people who hadn't been saved, naturally). On the other hand, it was incredibly awkward when he got to the part about seeing his wife with another man and how, had it not been for God, he would have been in jail.

BRADLEY: In retrospect, this church really seemed like a normal Church. There wasn't anything new about it, the floors were worn, the walls were old, and the members, well, seasoned. This church seemed to have a routine, one that was very slow paced, and seemed to last very long. Erica and I went on in, and noticed that we brought down the average age by a good 40 years. Regardless of this, we took our seats, and looked around. Like I said earlier, everything was a little worn. We said a few greetings, and we were then asked by a man if we wanted to sing today. Odd. I don't think Erica and I have ever been asked to sing before. It was very strange.

It wasn't until much later, when the church finally started to gain people, but this time, they were a little younger. Small families here, a few single people there. The opening songs went on (great playin') with some light guitar, and some piano-action. It was all very old-timey. Then came the anouncements, which dragged on way to long, and then came the sermon.
.
This was one of the worst sermons I've ever heard. The preacher was crying for the duration of the message, and bringing references to his own life into the sermon. Usually I like when the precher puts in a few of his own stories in there, but these were just pointless references to his many divorces, and wrong choices in life. It really made me feel uncomfortable. Anyway, that really sums up the church, I mean, there wasn't too much to say about it, it was old, and the sermon wasn't that great. Just an O.K. church.

*****
Also! First Baptist Church of Glen Este sent us each a form letter, thanking us for attending last week. I'm not going to bother transcribing it-- the scan came out pretty clearly and nothing particularly meaningful or heartfelt was written.

(If you can't read it, just leave me a message and I'll be happy to type it up-- I'm just not sure that anyone reads these.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Church #17: First Baptist Church of Glen Este

(Sorry for the picture... again! I forgot to take my own when we were leaving so I had to grab this one from their site.)

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica

2. CHURCH HOP RANKINGS:
How was the experience?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.


ERICA: 4.
BRADLEY: 3. No comment.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
First Baptist Church of Glen Este
1034 Old State Route 74
Batavia, OH 45103
http://fbcge.org/

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
This was the third that Gail recommended to us.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:45--12:30?

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Baptist.

8. Who did you meet?
Actually, Lisa (?) met us. She was a very, very nice and welcoming woman that sat next to us in the balcony, loaned Bradley her Bible, recommended youth/singles ministries to us, etc. We were a little unprepared for her but she was incredibly welcoming.

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: Despite the warm welcome by Lisa (#8), I had a fairly uncomfortable experience at First Baptist. We even had the honor of some mild celebrity attendance but it just wasn't enough.

We were about 20 minutes early for services but the huge church was already filled, casting us up to the balcony. We later found out that they were so overcrowded all the teens had been sent to their own service in a different complex-- that helped explain why we were the youngest ones there and it was pretty impressive to see such a turn-out. Then I remembered that it's 9-10-2006, or 9-11 Eve. It all started to come together a little more.

One thing I really did like: reserved seating for police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, etc. (Elected officials...) I don't know if that was just a 9-11 thing or not, but I was behind it.

A first for me: full choir w/robes and everything, with a church orchestra. That's right... brass, woodwinds, you name it. There was a lot of music. Sooo much music. Some of it was pretty nice, but there were a lot of songs about freedom, etc.

The the PowerPoint began, which I could also handle, even though it was hardly inspired. The same photos of 9-11 I've been seeing for five years now. The same "freedom isn't free"-type mantra that I'm desensitized to. Bald eagles and clip art... you know the drill.

More than an hour had passed with all the music and PowerPoint. I'm sure it was a special service for the occassion and it didn't particularly bother me, until the sermon. Was I ready for anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality? No. Should I have been? Probably. It really hurt to hear the "gay is wrong" diatribe, and then hear a boisterous "amen" from my pew neighbors. What does that have to do with terrorist attacks? Is that just something you have to throw in to every sermon? This of all sermons should be about love.

I can tell I haven't completely captured what I didn't like about the church, and I'm sorry. I've put this post off for a few hours to try to cool down and not by a hypocrite; that is, not post about how much I hate what a church believes, when I was a visitor there and knew what I was getting myself in to. It's not my place to enter a church with established beliefs and then insult them. But this is my blog, damnit, and I would also be lying if I thought I was proud to see high school friends of mine in a congregation that would be so discrimnatory.

BRADLEY:
Well, this was a very interesting Church. It wasn't until after the service was over that I had realized I had been there once before. (With dad, and his Micheal [ex-business partner]) It had been different the fist time I went there, because we went to an evening service, and things were just overall different. But this time, Erica and I walked in to this fairly large Church, and into the main area, where the service was held. He were there 20 minutes early, and the place was already filled. We had to take two seat at the top of the second tier. We were at the very highest, and farthest back, part of the Church. They had a large portion of the front row reserved for special people. That was odd at first.

Soon after the service started, we realized who the seats were saved for. We were at a special service, to remember 9/11. I'm not at all opposed to special services like this, but there is a wrong way to do it, and a right way. It started off with a few songs, with a very large, very good chorus. After a while of songs, they started with the normal anouncements. Everything was going great, until they had us stand up and say "hello" to some new people. The woman (who was with her husband?) next to us stood right up and shook our hands. After a few times repeating my name (what's so hard with Bradley?) she was telling me ALL about this church's teen programs, and asking about Erica's "status" and telling her about the singels program. This did not help our view of the church at all. I'm sure it's not there fault they have a few over the top people, but like I said, it didn't help.

The service started. Another song was thrown in there, and then they introduced the special people. EMTs (shouts to Bill V), Firefighters, and Policemen. They layed on thick, the (close to) hour and a half long power point, about 9/11. Like I said, I'm all for remembering, it's a good thing, but when you'll putting un-resized pictures of 9/11 you got from Google Images ('and I KNOW they were) it's pretty pathetic. He connected it to the "two towers" in the Bible. I can't remember when they stood for, because the woman next to me was thrusting her Bible in my hands. It was very uncomfortable, and extreamly ackward (both her, and the Church). To make matters worse, they talked about how Abortion is "wrong" and babies are being killed every day, and they also were trying to wipe out the disease of homosexuality. *Sigh*, this church was painfully offensive to me. I don't think I'll ever go back.

P.S.
the appearence of "Jean Schmidt" only made things worse.