Sunday, December 10, 2006

Church #26: Northstar Vineyard Community Church

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

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.

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.

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:

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

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.