Friday, December 28, 2007

'Sbeen a long time since I rock-n-roll'd

Hello all! I noticed there are still some people subscribed to this blog, so I thought I'd throw an update your way.

First off, at the beginning of the year I'm starting a new project. If you'd like to follow it and toss me some suggestions, the blog is here:

I didn't want this post to just be a plug for my new project, but if I can borrow some readers, why the heck not?

Heritage is still awesome. Bradley and I have been visiting more or less every Sunday, with the exception of all of October because of a bunch of traveling I had to do. With the Year of Philanthropy I'm hoping to get a little closer to my church family-- I've been too stressed and busy to fully participate in all the things I'd like to. Hopefully 2008 will change that.

Bradley and I will become members of the church soon. We've already been invited to do so, but it came at a time when things were too hectic to focus on the church and make sure we'd be making a smart decision. But it's definitely in the plans for 2008 as well.

This past weekend, Brad and I attended the Crossroads Christmas show ("Awaited"). We were invited to last year's show, "Imagine," and had a fantastic time-- this year was also a blast. We even brought someone from Heritage! The show was evokative, gorgeous and packed-- I heard they gave away something like 20k tickets?! Before the show they had free coffee, hot chocolate, cookies... plus free family Christmas portraits! Are you kidding?! The whole experience, from the moment we walked in to the moment we left, was inviting and fun. If you want to see what a welcoming congregation looks like, stop by Crossroads some time-- not just for the Xmas show, either. *high fives to the megachurch*

Alright, that's about it for me. Leave me a note at the new blog if you still read this! The project kicks off January 1st. :) I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Heritage updates!

A number of you... albeit a small number... have inquired as to how things are going at Heritage UU Church. I'm more than happy to oblige.

In a nutshell, things are going marvelously. I can honestly say that I understand why many churchgoers churchgo. I did not know a place like this existed and finding a place like Heritage has changed my life for the good.

Some less abstract goings-on:

*Bradley and I attended a Litha (summer solstice) party at a church member's house. There were other congregation members there, as well as members from other UU churches, members of the local pagan organizations, and friends and family of the host. It was an eye-opening and unforgettable experience that culminated in Bradley jumping, fully clothed, into the host's in-ground pool.

*Every other Sunday morning, from 9-10:30am, Heritage holds a religious forum. (The other Sundays are a political forum.) Bradley and I attended the last session ("Heaven and Hell") and this morning's session ("Enlightenment"). Forum is fascinating-- there are such varied schools of thought presented at Heritage... all of them vocal. ;) We want to start visiting the political forum as well, but I'm loathe to relinquish that extra hour of sleep. ;)

*Church members were invited to tour Eastgate's Hindu temple a week or so back, and that was another amazing experience. Not only did we get a mini-tour of the breathtaking temple, but we were encouraged to sit in on a service. It was incredible-- beyond words, really, and something I never would have guessed I'd be doing on a Thursday night in Eastgate.

*As of this morning, I think Bradley and I are on the "communications committee"-- that is, we've volunteered to help structure the HUUC website. *beam* I hope we aren't in over our heads!

*I had my first "solo flight" last week-- Bradley didn't come with me to service, because he was in the HUUC Youth Group. He'll also be joining the Youth Group in August for a retreat that I know little to nothing about. Hahaha...

*Two weeks from now, they're having a service with poetry as a major element, and I was asked to read something of mine! Eek!!

*There is so much other stuff going on in Heritage-- book clubs, film nights, potlucks, yoga classes, folk dancing, Religious Education classes... it can be overwhelming, but in the best possible way. The congregation has been so encouraging (ew, I sound like Jane Goodall or something all of the sudden) and has never pressured us in any way. I find myself always looking forward to something, which is a fantastic feeling for someone who so craves variety and experience.

I'd like to open the floor to any questions about the HUUC experience, hahaha....

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I know, I know, I know. I've been gone for a while, no? Thanks for all the comments while I've been out and about (yes, all of them, even the scary apocalyptic ones).

Until further notice, I guess this blog is on hold while we explore Heritage and UUism. (Quit making the sign of the devil, please.) Bradley and I have found something unique and compelling to the both of us, and we've agreed that what we most want at this time is to explore the church-- to dive in head first and see how it feels.

I don't consider this journey to be over, but I can't say when, if ever, Church Hop will be regularly updated again. If you would like to be notified when something new happens here, email me at redrabbit[at]gmail[dot]com. Or use the RSS feeds, whatevs.

Thank you for your readership, and definitely for your feedback on all matters Church Hop. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Church #37: Heritage UU Church REVISITED

Happy belated Memorial Day!

On Sunday, Bradley, dad and I re-visited (or visited for the first time, in dad's case) Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church. We were greeted with the same warm welcome as the first time, directed to make our name tags, etc.

I was able to introduce Bradley and myself to Reverend Gupton, though we weren't able to really talk because he was preparing for the day's service. The service was an emotional one, as the congregation spoke of loved ones they'd lost in the past year. It was a very reflective and sombre service, and it was good to see another side of the church.

My feelings toward Heritage and UUism are positive ones. As soon as my dad writes up his post I'll add it here, and I'm sure Bradley will throw his two cents in soon. Still no decision on how to balance Heritage and Church Hop... any thoughts?!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

First Unitarian follow-up letters

It has been a while since we received a non-form letter from a church, so I thought I'd post both letters that we received from First United. (I'm not trying to glib, I just think it's funny that we're getting some "not UU!" attitude, but they do so much to stand out from other churches!)

The first letter we received on Tuesday, from Reverend Sharon Dittmar herself.

The second we received today (Wednesday), from Linda, and though it is more form-y than the first, it still makes specific reference to the blog, etc.

I'm not going to type 'em up... just click 'em and they should be legible.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Church #38: First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 9.5.
BRADLEY: 9, solid nine for being an awesome church

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati
536 Linton Street
Cincinnati, OH 45219

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope, but since we liked last week's UU church so much, we thought we should explore others.

6. Time/duration of services:

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

8. Who did you meet?
A woman named Linda greeted us right away, showed us where things were, told us a brief history of the church (it was Taft's home church?!), etc. She also found us after services and introduced us to Reverend Sharon Dittmar.

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

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

ERICA: As we mentioned last week, the Church Hop project isn't over. We did want to check out other UU churches, and the next closest one that I could find online was off of Reading Road... a half-hour trek from home. (I guess with that in mind, I was kind of hoping to like Heritage a little bit more, haha.)

My first thoughts of the church were about how beautiful it was. Even on the outside, this historical church just appealed to me aesthetically. Gorgeous. And inside was the same story, with brilliant, detailed stained glass (I'm nuts for stained glass), a large historical plaque, etc.

Right away, Linda greeted us and made us feel at home... she didn't pressure us about anything, but let us know what was going on so we didn't feel lost. (It was Youth Sunday-- more on that in a second.) We had name tags within minutes, and she said that she'd find us after the service.

Youth Sunday was really cool to sit in on-- they let all the high school students take complete control over the service. There was music and a skit and all the components of a regular service, but they ran everything. Many of them were graduating seniors, and there was a small send-off for them, too. While I wish that I could have heard Reverend Dittmar run a service, it was a very warm thing to take part in.

Oh, and they asked their visitors to stand, which I hate-- but they at least did word it as "if you feel comfortable doing so, please stand." I at least felt as though it were my choice to feel humiliated, haha. I think there was one other pair of visitors, who stood after we stood, and everyone clapped. Eek.

After service, just as she promised, Linda found us and introduced us to Reverend Dittmar. She welcomed us again and we told her that we had visited Heritage last week, and were curious about other UU churches. She supported the decision and we told her we'd visit again some day, which we almost definitely will.

I know that a lot of Church Hop readers have expressed their distaste for the UU faith, but today definitely backed up the way I felt about Heritage. Even hearing the words of the high school students today... they were so open and accepting, all about equality and choice. This is definitely something I want in my life, even if I haven't figured out in what capacity just yet. ;)

Brad: I can't really believe that in such a short time, Erica and I have found such a deep connection with an idea like these. It's not that I'm captivated by the idea of a new thing, but that idea of me getting excited about going to a church with a group of people who share the same thoughts I have. That's why it felt good to go to another Unitarian church, because I knew we would probably get an experience close to the one we had last Sunday.

The first thing you should know about this church is that it's magnificently beautiful. I mean, just really amazing, between the large architecture, and the stained glass, it really tied the church together. Upon entering, Erica and I were greeted quickly, and very kindly by a group of women who seemed more than eager to explain what and who they were.

After some brief introductions, and explanations of the goings-on, we moved into our seats to welcome the message-given by their high school members. I always feel a little weird receiving a message by kids my age, but overall, they did a pretty good job. Anyway, I was totally blown away by the fact that they played Zeppelin during the offering, and it had a lot to do with following your dreams-which was the overall message. Like I said, they did a good job, but I would also like to come back when their regular Reverend Dittmar is speaking.

One thing Erica mentioned, that I wanted to talk about, is that they made the visitors of the church stand up to be viewed by the entire congregation. This really doesn't bother me too much, as I know it really bothers Erica. I don't know, it might just be past experience for her-but I feel like people can already spot a visitor, and is already started the process of viewing us as such. So I guess it's just not that big of a problem for me. Oh well.

Anyway, not a bad church, but definitely a church worth going back to again.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Church #37: Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 10?
BRADLEY: I think this might actually be my first 10.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church
2710 Newtown Road
Cincinnati, OH 45244

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No, but people have been suggesting that we step outside the traditional Christian church (and really, that was the idea from the beginning... it's just easier said than done). Also, I had heard about UU churches when I was in college but was never able to visit one.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Universalist Unitarian, and thus many religions.

8. Who did you meet?
Many people... lots of fellowship. Several Bobs.

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

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

ERICA: Well well well. Didn't really see this coming.

Service was over hours ago, but I'm still a little floored to have found so many of my "prayers" answered today. I'm really not sure where to start.

This project, as I have mentioned before, was never really about finding a church home. It was about an exploration and personal growth. That being said, where has this church been all my life?

Let me back up. Last night, I watched a religious debate, which left me incredibly frustrated. We had some churches still on the queue, but they were more of the same sects we've already visited, and I needed something else. UU has always been in the back of my mind because a professor mentioned it to me once, when I was in college. He said they were about questioning faith, and that interested me (though not enough to hunt them down, until just now).

So I Google'd "Universalist Unitarian" and my zip code, and voila... the internet did what the internet does and I had this church. I was excited to be doing something new and unfamiliar.

We found the church with no problem. Parked in the first time visitor spot, across from a Rav4 with an Obama '08 bumper sticker. There was a lot of green... trees and flowers and a little garden.

When we walked in, everyone was clamoring for one another's attention-- hugging and congesting the lobby with small talk and handshakes. Very loud and very upbeat (though yes, something difficult to walk into as an outsider). We got our program and found our seats.

I'm a sucker for windows. This church had bare walls, few if any decorations anywhere... but a giant, round window in the front of the auditorium (the way we were facing), and tall windowed doors to our left, which looked out into more green green green. The windows were the first thing I noticed-- the second was the lack of the cross, or of any religious artifact whatsoever. (Anyone who knows about UU is probably bored with this post already, but I knew very little going into this.)

Bells to start service. Bells to transition. Hymns about life, compassion, the Earth... not a mention of God, Jesus, higher powers. [Edit: Reverend Bill Gupton has informed me that they do mention God, but they "don't tell you what God is."] Silent reflection (I loved this so much) instead of guided prayer. "Sharing our abundance" instead of holy offerings. A segment called "How We Serve": this week's was about the church's Green Team's new compost heap. Welcoming new members, where the congregation pledged to "renew our covenant to seek and speak the truth, to love one another, and to serve humankind in fellowship."

Is this not what I've been talking about for a year now? Being a good person, serving your community and your fellow human beings, without the threat of hell or the promise of heaven? A journey and a search and the ability-- the encouraged ability-- to question and to doubt?

This is not a church without religion-- they still watch movies about religion, hold forums with religious discussion, have an entire religious education department... but during services, it isn't necessarily about invoking The One Power and swearing allegiance. I could not be happier to know this exists.

Celebrating Life, Creating Community, Seeking Justice. ...Yes, please.

Now I know I've gone way tangential, because this blog was supposed to be heading toward a "welcome" notion. But today I found something I really needed to find, so grant me this.

And the church was welcoming, though not in any specific way that I've outlined with other churches. There was a guest registry, some hand-holding during Benediction, some quick fellowship, open invitations. But finally the way I think and feel and believe was welcomed, in a way I hadn't really found yet.

Bradley and I want to go back. Bradley expressed the desire before I asked him about it, which is just one more thing that tells me this was a great thing. But neither of us want to give up this project-- we aren't done with it yet. We're considering Hopping every other week, and on the other Sundays re-visiting HUU to see if it gives us that same feeling consistently. Any suggestions on how else to keep exploring, while maaaaybe considering giving the church home thing a try?

Brad: Wow. Just wow. This church really blew me away, and put me in a place that is the hardest thing to put into words that I've ever had to face. This church really put my mind in an awkward place-but a place that was so foreign it wasn't entirely a bad experience. In fact, quite the opposite. This church was like nothing I had ever been to, and to be honest, I'm liking it more and more.

I had a good feeling about this place upon entering when I saw that one of the cars outside had a sticker reading "Obama '08". This put a grin on my face that would last the entire duration of my experience at this church. When Erica and I walked in, there was no crucifix on the wall, and no large cross on the wall behind the pastor. It was simply a clean white room, with simple architecture and a large amount of folding chairs. The end of the room had a large circular window that outlooked into a sort of courtyard that would later be mentioned.

We sat down and took it all in. I was already thinking this would be a good time (which was later proved right) because (for some odd reason in my mind) it looked like all of the people here were science teachers. It might have been the high "beard rate" or the intelligence level, but something just gave me that vibe.

The whole service started, but with the (and not complete, but lowered) absence of God related references, and the induction of several new members who all were "tired of the guilt" of other religions. They were all shrugging off their old ways to bring on this new way of thinking. It was around this time that I was thinking I could be doing the same thing.

I don't know if it's just the idea of being able to keep the same thought I have right now, and just apply them within a community of people who are all in the same boat, looking for the same type of answers. It just was very appealing to me, and it's still brewing in the back of my mind. While the goers of the church seem a bit wiser, it'll still be nice to be with people of the same thought process behind what we want in life. Plus, I noticed a man interested in eastern thought, something I'm finding has more and more to offer.

I'm hoping that giving this church a shot will pay off.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Church #36: Greater Cincinnati Church of God

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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.


3. Picture(s) of the church
N/A. Sorry I didn't get a better head-on picture!

4. Name/location of the church:
Greater Cincinnati Church of God
8290 Batavia Pike
Cincinnati, OH 45244
No known website.

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope; we passed it en route to last week's church.

6. Time/duration of services:
10:45am--something like 12:30pm.

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Aye yi yi. Church of God?

8. Who did you meet?
I feel like I might have shaken nearly every congregation member's hand-- this church was wildly welcoming. I didn't take away any names, however.

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

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

ERICA: First off, "Church of God" is so vague. I've been Hopping for a year now and sometimes I'm frustrated that I still can't tell some sects apart. Remember this Church of God? There were definitely similar elements in this church, but it was also largely different. I guess it all boils down to the fact that every church is different, right?

So first off, how welcome did I feel? Very. Maybe too much so? It can be a little intimidating when you walk into a church and everyone *immediately* recognizes you as a new visitor. Still, before we were even inside the door we were being greeted. One woman invited us to a breakfast that was just ending. Another woman gave me information about the church.

(Quick side note: Bradley's a person too. He's 16 years old, so sometimes it really bothers me when people speak only to me at a church. It happens more than you'd think. People hand me one visitor card, or one program, and often act as though Bradley isn't there. Now, this wasn't completely the case at this church, but it's still something I want to sound off about.)

After we found our seats, there was more fellowship. More hand shaking, more small talk. All fine and dandy-- this church was incredibly social and tight-knit, or at least seemed that way. We were definitely welcomed, though I think only one person asked our names.

The church was pretty large, itself... kind of barnlike, as you can see from the picture on top of this post. Tall ceilings, loud music, lots of involvment (Can I get an "Amen"?). The pastor (is that the right term, in the Church of God? Pastor?) was energetic-- reminded me of an auctioneer, at times.

Oh, and just when I thought I'd seen every possible communion method... this time, during the music, a few people took communion on their own. No one ever said anything about it... just a handful of people did it, alone. This church also has Wednesday night services, so I would guess that's when they do a ritual communion. But that's a guess.

Brad: Well, this church was very interesting. I can remember driving by it as it was being built, and it's a realitivly large church in itself, which was painted and presented pretty nicely. Anyway, this church was so welcoming it almost hurt. It's very nice to be greeted into something that's so personal for most people, but it's even more awkward to be cast as a "visitor" with just a simple glance, like Erica said.

They went through a run of announcements, and some people were still coming in and out, and kids running through the halls, and the band was still getting some mic problems out the way. And older gentleman came up and handed Erica and I some hard candy with a scripture passage on it. A nice gesture, but a little unexpected.

Anyway, this church couldn't have had more than 50 people, which I've found is pretty small for a church, but they all seemed to have a clue and hand in what was going on. The music started, and it was very loud. It wasn't so loud I couldn't stand it, but they could have afforded to tone it down a bit, considering the projector was shaking because of the amplification.

After a while of songs, the preacher came up. This guy had some good things to say, but a style I wasn't much used to. It was very high paced and loud. I could only think of one thing during, which is "if you highlight everything, you highlight nothing". It just really turned me off, because he had such a high energy thing going.

I guess I just couldn't help feel very odd in this church.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Church #35: Solid Rock Church

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 4, the message really took it down.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Solid Rock Church
904 N. Union Drive
Monroe, OH 45050

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Yes! A bunch of readers have asked that we visit the church with Touchdown Jesus.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
I'm not positive, but the church reminded me a lot of this one, so I'm going to guess that they're Baptist. If anyone wants to clear this up for me, feel free.

8. Who did you meet?
We went to the visitor center, where we exchanged our visitor cards for CDs of one of their sermons, but the friendly girl manning the booth seemed too busy to talk. There was a nice man near the center who asked us where we were from, but I didn't get his name.

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

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

ERICA: Happy anniversary, Church Hop! This year has been so eye-opening for me... so rewarding. In honor of our one year, Bradley and I decided to visit Solid Rock Church, famous for its giant King of Kings statue.

The megachurch itself is pretty amazing... huge and elaborate, easily navigable and clearly easy to find. We attended the early service, and the entire bottom floor was filled by the time it started... I'd guess that the 11:30 service is even fuller. We say in the balcony to get a good view of everything, and there weren't too many people up there.

The music was fanTASTIC. I was so excited to hear the full-blown gospel that they had, especially because that's something Bradley really likes. Everyone was standing and clapping the rhythm and singing along, so there was an amazing energy.

Unfortunately, this was one of those churches with beliefs very different from mine. (With a name like Solid Rock Church, I really had no expectations about what kind of belief system it had... though the giant Jesus might have given me an inkling.) I won't go into detail (I do listen to reader feedback, you know) but the sermon was very much like the First Baptist Church of Glen Este, so while the sermon was high-octane and passionate, I found myself emotionally tuning out the bulk of it.

As far as actually feeling welcome-- and that's the point of this, isn't it?-- they pulled the single-you-out-if-you're-new stuff that I'm not a huge fan of, but they were largely welcoming. They made it very clear that n00bs were welcome, they had a visitor center, information on the church, etc. Nothing else particularly caught my eye.

BRADLEY: First of all, let me start by saying something similar to Erica, and that is, we finally got to visit the Touch Down Jesus Church. For the visiters of I-275, it's a real treat to see that giant Jesus lighting up the way. (FYI, there is a theater behind him) Now I can brag to all those of the Facebook group saying "I've seen the big butter Jesus"

Enought about that.

Well this church started off grEAt. (as Tony the Tiger would put it) When we finally found a spot to park, and went inside, I was blown away at how large it was. Erica told me the website said it had around 3000 members, I can see how. But regardless of the size, this church still looked amazing. The stage was huge, and there was a giant neon blue (neon light, not neon colored paint) dove on the ceiling. Erica and I took seats right above the tech-booth. I love me a good tech booth.

Like I said, the music blew me away how good it was. They had a lot of spirit, and a whole lot of talent. The lead vocalist was really givin' it his all, and the choir behind him totally backing him up with the kind of sound only a large church congregation could make. The music was totally worth the trip.

But then came the speaker.

Let me first start off with saying he was a good speaker, in the sense of his actual speaking ability. His voice was a little raspy, in the good kind of way, the kind that holds your attention, and he would start to build up his sentaces when he talked, and got people excited with a large "AMEN". But the message was less than desirable to me. It just really disagreed with what I believe personally, because of so many things he mentioned, mostly to do with abortion, gay rights and George Bush.
So all in all, the music was some of the best I've heard yet, but the message really hurt my view of this church.

(note: my spelling is a little bad, I'm not using the grammer correcting Firefox, but rather IE)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Almost-Birthday, Jared!

I'm not sure where you're reading from, but in my part of Ohio it was *gorgeous* this weekend. And as one of my best friend's birthdays is fast-approachin', we went camping to celebrate.

I wanted to go to church, but camping makes one scummy. There was a really cute church (stained glass windows, a small graveyard in back) near the campground, but I was in no condition to enter. Ick. :)

In other news, we've made over EIGHT DOLLARS (ooooooh!) through Ad Sense. They only cut you a check once you've racked up $10, so if you want to see a church bring in that kind of sweet bank, you'd better start clicking things more dilligently. Should I add more stuff?

P.S. Next Sunday will be our first anniversary! We have big plans...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Church #34: Mother of Christ Catholic Church

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 8, for great music, and a great time

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Mother of Christ Catholic Church
5301 Winneste Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45232

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Yes! I met Ena during a computer class I was taking, and she pointed me toward her home church. (Thank you so much for the recommendation!)

6. Time/duration of services:

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

8. Who did you meet?
I was able to introduce Bradley to Ena and her son. Yea!

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

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

ERICA: Bradley and I have been very interested in visiting more... diverse churches than we have been. While each church is a new experience for us, they've mostly had... let me just say this... predominately white congregations. I hope the distinction doesn't offend anyone. It's just the truth.

I was incredibly excited when Ena invited me to Mother of Christ. For one thing, it's a major honor when people invite us to their church at all, because it's such a personal and trusting gesture. But it also took us out of our tiny Eastgate comfort zones, which is so much of the idea of Church Hop in the first place. Go do new things, visit new places, meet new people. All that jazz.

Bradley and I made a 40 minute trek to step out of those comfort zones, and we were rewarded with an incredible experience at Mother of Christ. The people were so warm and inviting, well before Ena showed up and took us under her wing. One woman brought us each visitor cards attached to small name tags so that people might address us by name-- no one had offered us that before. Other people stopped at our aisle on the way to their seats just to welcome us or shake our hands.

The music was incredible-- a passionate, gospel feel that carried on through the entire service. Before offering, during communion, after the sermon... whenever there was a pause, there was energetic gospel to fill in the holes. One woman in the choir signed along with the music beautifully, which was another thing I hadn't seen before but it added a great layer to my experience.

Communion passed without incidence, to my delight. The pastor gave a warm, relevant and briefish sermon. The woman doing the announcements welcomed us by name (visitor cards!) and the congregation welcomed us in unison.

A lot of my experience came from Ena, too... though she tried to keep her distance during the service so that we could pull our own experience from it. Still, she whispered page numbers to us so that we could follow along (a LOT easier in a borrowed missal than in a Bible, by the way), and afterwards she told us about the beautiful mosaics and murals in and on the church. There were wall-sized scenes of religious moments, with members of the congregation depicted in the scenes.

Sometimes I wish more churches had art like that, but I know it's not every church's style. Still, Mother of Christ was beautiful to me in so many ways. I appreciate being invited, and I especially appreciate being welcomed before anyone even knew I was invited.

BRADLEY: Well, Erica and I finally reached out to a farther church than we normally go to visit Mother of Christ Catholic church. I have to say, the journey (although mapquested) was very much worth it.

This was a great church, and so much more diverse than I'm used to, so it was a really awesome experience to collect and gather views from other areas of the community. Upon entering, I noticed that this dumped us out right into the main auditorium, and even though Erica and I were a little early, there were already people setting up and hanging out. We grabbed some seats, and I had a good chance to look around. The building was an older building. I could tell everything had been used, but in a good way.

The service started, and I was dipped in some of the best singing I have ever heard come out of a church. The choir, which had around 12+ people were just singing their hearts out, which made it really easy to just get lost in the words. It was really something special. Erica's friend Ena (who invited us) was there to help us along through the service. (which was really helpful) That's what is really hard about Catholic churches, but this church wasn't as formal as some of the Catholic churches we've been to, which I really liked, just for the sake of it being new.

Then the pastor came up to give his sermon, which was all around too brief, because I would have liked the chance to hear him get into a larger service, to hear what he had to say. He seemed like a really cool guy, and while I wasn't always in complete comprehension of what he was saying, he delivered a powerful message. During our greeting, people were hugging me and shaking hands, and going out of their way (even the singers came down) just to say hello. That rocked.

Usually when we visit a church, you can see who is there just to say then went to church, and you can see the people who are there to get in touch with their community and reach out with some fellowship. At this church, I saw more people trying to reach out then I've ever seen.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter Sunday!

First off, if you haven't read yesterday's post about advertising, please do so, and leave me some helpful comments. :D

Now then, to churchin'!

Bradley and I definitely wanted to visit a church today... but it's Easter. When we visited Catholic churches during Lent, we took away a different experience than one would normally get. Right? So we didn't want to visit a church on Easter, knowing full well that it wouldn't be a regular church experience.

Soooo, we did something we've been wanting to do for a while: we re-visited our first church. That church, Loveland United Methodist Church, was our big foray into the project, back when we had no idea what we were getting into. We'd had no basic for comparison either, so Bradley and I have always wondered what it would be like to go back.

LUMC was very welcoming, again. Some things had changed-- there are video screens now, and an elaborate sound system, for instance-- but for the most part it felt much like it did the first time (almost a year ago!). We did get to hear the pastor speak, though-- last year, they had a guest speaker when we were there.

We didn't want this post to be the same as a regular Church Hop post, because we don't plan to start re-visiting churches right and left. But it was nice to spend Easter at a church that had great meaning for us.

Happy Easter, everyone, whatever you believe!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Mad Scratch

Ahoy, Church Hop readers! (No, this is not a notice about how we aren't going to hop this week... we absolutely intend to.)

On the left side and bottom of the site, Bradley and I have added some AdSense elements. The site has been seeing abnormal traffic lately, and we thought we'd give The Man a try. HOWEVER, this comes with a stipulation that hopefully you can get behind. Bradley and I will be donating any money that we amass from the ads on Church Hop. We currently give $2 ($1 each) to the church that we visit, and if things go well with AdSense, we'd like to add that income to our "tithes."

Does that sound right to you? Comment with some feedback, positive or negative. If you want to support the Hop, click on some links why don'tcha? In the next couple of months we'll be playing with which ads work, if they work at all, so things might change a little. Just to give you a heads up. :)

Thanks for your interest in Church Hop (even if you hate the project-- after all, that generates hits, too). We'll keep you updated on our AdSense venture.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Church #33: Love & Faith Christian Center

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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, this was an awesome church.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Love & Faith Christian Center
3946 Hopper Hill Road
Cincinnati, OH 45255

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Not originally, but I guess on last week's post, Gail pointed us in their direction. :)

6. Time/duration of services:

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

8. Who did you meet?
Bradley saw his Spanish teacher & his wife when we were leaving (hi Mr. & Mrs. Smith!), so I suppose that counts.

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

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

ERICA: First off, everyone was supposed to give out this card to people who might want to visit for next Sunday's Easter services. So there you go-- I am officially inviting anyone who reads this blog to visit Love & Faith Christian Center. All the details are on that little Check Your Baggage card. :)

And now onto my opinions. I really felt very welcome at this church (once I FOUND the place). We were welcomed immediately upon entering the church, and everyone around us seemed friendly. The very first point inside the weekly program, right under the date, is "A special welcome to our first-time visitors!" and while the program doesn't have the schedule of what happens during a service, it does make it clear that Love & Faith is very active within their community and within their own circle.

The service started with a lot of music that people really got behind. Many people stayed seated, but this was definitely a time for rowdy worship. Nearly every pew was filled, and everyone seemed enthusiastic to be there.

After the music and an adorable moment with the children (they sang songs with Spanish verses and elements of American Sign Language!), communion started. It was a pass-the-tray kind of communion, which I find myself looking forward to every time. So much less stress, and another sign that this church does open its arms to visitors.

I found myself really having a good time during the sermon, which is something I don't say often. Pastor Dale Campfield was very funny, very engaging, very off-the-cuff. His sermon was entertaining and grounded in real-life messages. He directed certain parts of the sermon toward particularly members of the congregation, including pulling up an elderly member who had been there since the church started.

This church gave off that one-big-family vibe, and I found that incredibly comfortable (barring the part where we had to stand up and pray with specific people... I wasn't sure how to handle that right away). I'm still recommending that they put their website on their marquee, but on the whole I feel like they had their hearts in the right place.

Brad: Well, starting off with this church being seemingly impossible to find, (turns out we missed it by one turn) it was extremely welcome, and very upbeat. It's always very satisfying to go to a church that I see often (it's right by the highway), it really fills me with a feeling of accomplishment. Which is much attributed to Erica, so thanks sis. This project rocks.

Anywho, I noticed this church had just remodeled one of it's sides, which I could tell just by the look that it was trying to reach out to the younger side of their church, which I'm finding out is a large step for a church to take. I usually talk about their connection to people of my age (because they're my age) but it seems like it's a much more complicated process than I've given credit for.

The church seats in the main auditorium were very close together, which pushed a forced togetherness that I didn't love, but at the same time I didn't hate. I guess we were lucky to even have seats, because this place was packed. It was filled with all sorts of people, varying in a wide range of ages. They went through their announcements and a few songs with the kids. That always makes me feel awkward-kid songs.

Then it moved on to the pastor, which I just loved. I met my former spanish teacher Mr. Smith there, and he informed me that Pastor Campfield used to the a youth minister, which I guess that's why I liked the way he gave his sermon so much. He just had a certain look about him that was confident, and very knowledgeable about his subject. This was a just a cool church, that's really starting to grow on me.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

(Insert Church Name Here)

We tried, very hard, to go to church.

There's a church that you can see from 275, which appears to be right off the Beechmont exit. I pass this church every weekday when I drive to work, and it has a big marquee. Unfortunately, they only use the marquee for inspiration, not fact. No address, no directions, and... surprisingly enough... no website. I'm positive this church HAS a website, so why they don't flash it on their jumbotron is beyond me.

Finally one day I caught their service times (8:30 and 11am, I believe), and so Bradley and I decided to try to find it. Certainly there was a sign or something, near the correct road? This morning we spent an hour driving along the back roads of Beechmont, searching for a church that seemed to be right off the exit. Finally we gave up when services would have been starting.
Soooooo... this seems like common sense, but let me put this out there for any church in a situation like this: flash me a dang website. If you have a huge, eye-catching marquee, the very best thing you can do for me is USE IT to tell me how to get there. They had other messages that implied that they wanted me to visit-- various "Come as you are!" type messages-- which is fantastic, but does me no good when I can't find your freakin' church.

Maybe I just haven't seen the website or the address-- but for looking at it at least five times a week... well, it just shouldn't be that difficult, should it?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Church of Snooze Buttons

You can guess what I'm going to say, can't you? ;) My darling friend Jared drove down from Columbus this weekend, and as he's not much of a church-goer we all got a little extra sleep this morning. We'll be back in action next week, and if things go as planned, we'll have one or two guest 'Hoppers with us! Have a great week!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Church #32: Guardian Angels Church

1. Who attended? Bradley, Erica and guest-hopper Alex!

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 5, this was a very different church (then what I'm used to)
ALEX: 5 (about average)

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Guardian Angels Church
6531 Beechmont Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45230
(I was unable to find a website.)

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No-- we drove past this huge, beautiful church two weeks ago.

6. Time/duration of services:

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

8. Who did you meet?
Yeah right.

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

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

ERICA: Alright, I was determined to visit another Catholic church (and yes, we'll visit more; pipe down). We passed this hulking beast of a church a couple weeks ago-- this place was seriously gorgeous. (Pardon the picture-- we did the best we could do while driving away from the place.)

My friend Alex volunteered to tag along, and as he was raised Catholic I put him in charge of keeping me from looking like a jackass. Welllll, easier said than done. This time we had sit-stand-KNEEL, which I'd been warned about but had yet to experience. Combine that with pages of memorized material and I was just plain out of my element. ...Even more so than usual.

Let me at least say that this church was flippin' beautiful. The altar was in the center of the huge auditorium, and there was seating all the way around. The stained glass... oh la la. Very gorgeous. The acoustics were great (which helped when you could hear a pin drop before services started, geez).

But as far as "welcome," no, I had the same feeling as with our first Catholic church-- that I had infiltrated. That I was doing something I shouldn't be doing, something that was wrong. That I was unwelcome. I tried my best to keep up, I really did, and luckily people were fairly intent on their own worship, because I must have looked like an idiot. I certainly felt like one.

BRADLEY: First of all, shouts to Alex, who went with us on this church hopping adventure, and who knew a little more about Catholic churches than I did.

Two Catholic churches, a double dose of back to back Catholic action is quite a task. This is clearly something I could not do. It's not that I have such a strong connection to the newer churches, it's just that Catholic churches seem to be steeped in a very thick and deep tradition. (Didn't I say that last time?)

When we came in, we came in on the side of the church, snaking past the pews in the side. I then saw something I had never seen before in a church. There were seating on all four sides of the main stage. People, again, were dead silent. We took our seats without making too much noise and looked around. The pews were old, worn with church going. The church held a lot of people, and it was nearly full. Still, the place was silent.

It hadn't really made the connection until reading Erica's post, that during this time (when I was sitting, looking around) nobody offered a hand as to who they were, or who this church was. Again, I didn't expect it, because it seems like Catholic churches are something you are raised in. While conversions are normal, just tapping into it seems like a task.

The service itself didn't seem that bad. Catholic services (according to Alex) seem to get it done much quicker than any other service we've been to. It was wrapped up in an hour. That's pretty cool, but the whole service I was very lost. Standing up and sitting down. Kneeling, again, something that's not meant to be taped into. So we went through communion, we went through the message and reading. Despite that fact that I didn't know what I was doing, it seemed like a pretty alright church. Very amazing visually too.

ALEX: Hello everyone!!! My name is Alex and I'm a new and visiting face to the Church Hopping Blog as of March 2007. I met Erica about a week ago and became enamored with her and her brother's idea of seeking out new churches to experience and learn from each week.

This week is my first Church Hopping Experience with Erica and Bradley. Although, I've been doing my own sort of low key church hopping since I've moved to Cincinnati in July of 2006, it's great to go with others each week. I've grown up Catholic and underwent the whole baptism, first communion, and conformation ordeals but have found myself drifting away from the strict Catholic teachings and beliefs for a few number of years. Three years ago, while living in Philadelphia and during the in the middle of medical school, I decided to try and attend church more regularly and encourage myself to find opportunities to learn more about my faith. Since relocating to Cincinnati, is my third Catholic church that I've attended (the others being St. Monica - St. George and Xavier's Bellarmine Chapel).

It's hard not to notice the hugeness of Guardian Angels Church when first turning into the parking lot and driving to the rear of the church. Entering however, it becomes apparent that the congregation is just as large. This is the first church I've come across with an alter located centrally to all the seating. The alter was on a square island surrounded on all four sides with this week's church goers. We sat on one of the smaller side wings, which happen to put us facing towards the backs of the priests for this service.

Being the time of Lent, the alter was decorated with the traditional purple runner, and purple candles were being lit as we sat down to enjoy the service (although one young alter boy had to call in for back up in order to light a stubborn candle). There was a grand organ with fully exposed pipes on the traditional front wall, and stained glass adorning both the side walls.

The service was typical of most Catholic churches with singing, praying, reciting, kneeling, and communion. I felt comfortable with the service and thought I could blend in well if need be. I wouldn't say that the service and homely was particularly directed towards any one group of people, nor would I say that it spoke all that directly towards me.

I jumped right into holding hands with Bradley and Erica while reciting The Are Father prayer, which I thought was a Cincinnati thing to do, but wasn't so popular at Guardian Angels. I think that threw Bradley and Erica for a loop and shocked them a bit. Sorry guys! [Note from Erica: It didn't shock me too much, as they held hands at our other Catholic church.]

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Church #32: Anderson Hills United Methodist Church

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 6, this was an interesting church.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Anderson Hills United Methodist Church
7515 Forest Road
Cincinnati, OH 45255

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No, it's nearby(ish), and our dad used to do maintenance there.

6. Time/duration of services:

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

8. Who did you meet?
We were greeted right away by a woman who played in the band.

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

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

ERICA: This church didn't particularly "affect" me in one way or the other-- I wasn't spiritually moved but the church clearly had a strong sense of community and the people were very friendly. The program was clear (I knew what to sing when, how/when they take communion, etc), there was clear visitor parking, and they mentioned that visitors were welcome and that they could receive a gift (and some personal attention) after services at a desk in the lobby. The pastor was animated and energetic, and there were roles for everyone in the church to play (act in a skit, sing in the band, "Jam for the Lamb," etc).

It was a straightforward church, I guess you could say. We were welcomed personally and in general. There was a passion missing for me, I guess-- very few people in the congregation sang along, even with the words up on the screen, and there was no powerful overall . But the message was relevant to day-to-day life (helping one another grow). Sorry I don't have much else to say about this one... I was comfortable, if unaffected.

BRADLEY: This was a very odd church, because I've seen so many like it before. It seems like an interesting idea for older churchs, or churchs that are usually steeped in tradition, to try and add on a newer part. It's all to attract the youth, because this room really seemed like it was collapsible. This is a very large church, but things still seem like they could revert back to the normal by just taking some computer screens off the wall.

But, not to say this church didn't know what it was doing, because it was organized, and everyone seemed to enjoy what was being offered. The wasn't was alright, and the stage was very well set up. Like I said, things were organized, and things were in place. Even though I'm of that age, the whole lot of teen church still doesn't attract me, so that's why I really didn't get the full feeling of this church. However, the pastor was a good speaker. He gave a clean, and simple sermon, something I can really appreciate, because of it's simplicity. This was a good church, I just would have liked to see a little more, because I know with a church of that size and with that amount of people, it's possible.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Church #31: Saint Veronica

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 5, this was an alright church.

3. Picture(s) of the church
(Just got the one, sorry.)

4. Name/location of the church:
Saint Veronica Parish
4473 Mr. Carmel-Tobasco Road
Cincinnati, OH 45244 (must have the www)

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope, although we've had requests to go to a Catholic church.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Catholic-- our first.

8. Who did you meet?

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

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

ERICA: I was the one who'd been putting off Catholic churches for a while, out of apprehension. Bradley didn't seem to care either way, but I was nervous this morning (though still excited).

Unfortunately my apprehensions were realized: I did not, at any point, feel as if I were supposed to be there. (And I'm sure many of my critics will jump on that statement and point out that I really wasn't supposed to be there at all. Still.)

When we first entered the parish, I was immediately taken with how dark it was in the auditorium. Pretty stained glass, a large, open room... but incredibly dark. In fact, a light burnt out during our services. We took a seat to the middle-right, toward the front, and sat quietly because it seemed most people who were already there were praying. No groups of people welcoming one another, catching up from last week, exchanging pleasantries. Before Church Hop started I would have thought this was the norm, but by now I've come to expect a church body to be active, social, buzzing. But not here, so we clasped our hands and waited for services to start.

...And start they did, without missing a beat. No "good morning," no "what a fine Sunday," no church announcements. Nada. The pastor started speaking, the small choir sang a hymn, and services were up and running.

We had no program-- no one did, that I could see. We followed the stand-up sit-down say-this say-that as best as we could (what did Pastor Zorn call that-- liturgy?), but without programs we were unable to join in to the majority of the congregational responses. These are things you learn when you grow up in the church, I guess. This is the reason you go through a process of having a sponsor and learning the faith and rituals before you become an active member of the Catholic church. Please, don't think I'm criticizing, because I'm trying to realize these things about the church and its sects-- it's just that it was clear this was not a church that would embrace being "hopped."

My discomfort continued. No one in the congregation smiled... ever? Not at children, not at one another, not when new members were being accepted into the church. It was all very serious, which goes against my tendency to show love and devotion through energy and enthusiasm. I couldn't understand most of what the pastor said or how the congregation responded-- it was so ingrained in them that it was all mumbled and even the improvisor in me was unable to fake it.

And of course there was communion, which I will probably always struggle with. When we left we were handed the church info that I have scanned and posted, but by then I was thinking of home. Bradley seemed surprised at my discomfort-- this will most likely be a case of varying opinions on the church.

I'd just like to throw out there that I'm sorry to the Catholics that read this, especially my friends. I tried and we will almost certainly visit other parishes to get more opinions, but Catholicism isn't what I'm looking for and I clearly am not what Catholicism is looking for.

Brad: Aside from Church Hop, I've never really had much experience with Catholicism in my life. I'd never been to a Catholic church, attended anything related, or read anything of value on it. This really put Erica and I at a loss when we went in, because of the customs and things they had to do. It was very awkward being the only few people that didn't know the prayers when certain things happened. But, this is why we do Church Hop I guess, to help ease that gap with learning new customs.

When Erica and I walked into the church, it was extremely quite. I mean, there were more than 100 people in here, and you could hear a pin drop. That was another new thing for me, because I usually point out that a church has all its members congregating in the lobby before the service starts. Also, I noticed that some people would bow on one knee before sitting down, if anyone can explain what that symbolizes, please let me know.

The service itself was all very intimidating. I really didn't know what was going to happen next, and since there is no real "guide to service", I was very confused a lot. I was on my feet, and back to sitting down very often, which normally dosen't bother me, but trying to keep up with the people around me proved harder than it looked. Most of it seemed pretty obvious, but it took some getting used to.

The priest was also something I was not used too. I could tell he was extremely familiar with what he had to do, knew where everything was. While it was hard to follow his words, it all seemed to wrap up in a nice package of what the message was. I guess you could say it looses personal touch in such heavy tradition. Normally I like tradition in churches, but this was a little too much for me. That being said, I can see why people would go here, but it's just not for me.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


No church this week... we kind of got snowed in. We were surprised to suddenly have another snowstorm, and the roads were completely slick and icy. According to every since news station, countless churches had closed their morning services, so Bradley and I took that as a hint that we needed to take this week off. Sorry to disappoint!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Church #30: Springdale Nazarene

1. Who attended? Bradley and Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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: 7-8.
BRADLEY: Around a 7, for it's exceptional music.

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Springdale Nazarene
11177 Springfield Pike
Cincinnati, OH 45246

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Yes! A while ago! Someone I know through suggested we visit the church she grew up in.

6. Time/duration of services:

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

8. Who did you meet?
I am really slacking on this part, aren't I? We need to stop going so late-- it's easier to stick around afterwards when you're not thinking about lunch.

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

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

ERICA: I was really, really surprised by this church. Whatever expectations I had when I went in, they were exceeded. I gave this church a 7-8 as far as feeling welcome goes, because we had to hunt down a person handing out programs (we went in a different door), but otherwise they made it very clear that visitors were welcome in their church.

The music was amazing-- truly. Their big, energetic choir belted it out with passion and they had a full orchestra (I couldn't see their faces, but I'm sure they were into it too). There was an amazing male soloist who was obviously singing his heart out, and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of.

The sermon was interesting and engaging, and the pastor was articulate. (Out of 30 churches now, how many times have I used that word?! I need a thesaurus.) The church itself was big and gorgeous (although I was dying to see the stained glass behind the projector screen, but I never got the chance). The auditorium was huge but filled quickly. The congregation seemed mostly older but I didn't feel alienated.

It was just a good experience, being there. I loved the part when they brought the "UPWARDS" kids to the stage-- cheerleaders and basketball players-- something like 350 kids in all-- and had them sing a song. Very cute and heartstrings-pully. And the whole thing still ended up being a little shorter than most of our recent hops-- it came and passed so quickly.

BRADLEY: This church blew me away.

So Erica and I got dressed in our sweaters and such, and went out in search of this church. We were driving through a very nice area, eying the small churches along the way. We scanned each marquee to see if it was ours, but no luck. Then we both looked up on this massive, gigantic church. Maybe it was just the front, but this thing looked huge. And yet, upon entering, people were doing the same thing as normal. Offering hugs and greetings to there fellow church goers.

Erica and I found some seats near the side, kind of close. After scoring programs, they welcomed to the stage the musical talent. And I gotta tell 'ya, they were absolutely amazing. A full band, complete with brass and string, not to mention the 30+ member choir. It just blew me away. They started a few songs, all better than the next. It was around this time when a soloist came up on the stage.

This man was amazing!

He hit each note with soul and power, leaving me wanting more. It was just a fantastic thing to be a part of. The crowd was cheering, and everyone was happy to be worshiping together.

It was a little after that settled down, when the announced the church's basketball team. They had over 350 players, and a gazillion helpers. After a few minutes of loading them onto the stage, they talked about mission programs and numbers, finally ending with a song, sung by the kids. It was all very cute, but very hectic.

Then the pastor came out. This was the only part that didn't amaze me. Usually I talk about how much I live the pastor or preacher tying in personal stories with the sermon. It brings a more, "real life" feel to things. Well, I found out that you can go to the other side of the spectrum with this. He related a little too much for my taste. He wasn't bad, but he would constantly pause and repeat words. I know it's for effect, but it really looses that effect after the 6th or 7th time.

This was a smart, and very spectacular church.

ALSO! We haven't had a thank you card in a while, and this week we received one from Full Gospel Assembly (last week's church).

The inside reads: Erica & Bradley-- It was so nice you came and visited our church. We really enjoyed having you. It was great meeting you both, and we hope you will come again. Jesus loves you very much. God bless. Full Gospel Assembly

Monday, February 05, 2007

Church #29: Full Gospel Assembly (Loveland)

1. Who attended? Bradley and Erica.

2. How welcome did you feel at this church?

BRADLEY: 5, for it's length

3. Pictures of the church: Okay, I screwed up this week. I only remembered one picture this time, and I'm lucky even to have that. AND the church doesn't have a website so I can't steal one. Use your imagination. It looked like a church.

4. Name/location of the church:
Full Gospel Assembly
11850 Lebanon Road
Loveland, Ohio 45140

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop? No, it's on our way to our grandmother's.

6. Time/duration of services: 10:45am until somewhere near 1pm.

7. What type of religion does the church cater to? Um. Even Wikipedia was clueless on this one-- can anyone lend a land here? It was Christian... that's all I have for ya.

8. Who did you meet? Okay, this is why I usually write responses on Sunday, right after services. There was one woman who was exceedingly welcoming and nice... I believe her name was Cindy.

9. If applicable, scans of tracts/handouts/etc. We never got a program and we couldn't find one on the way out. Nothin' doing.

10. Church Hoppers' personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: As you can see, I dropped the ball on this one. I forgot to take a picture, which must have been bad luck from the beginning. We couldn't find a handout, either, and there's no website. So I'm not a lot of help this week.

Full Gospel Assembly was... interesting. A heavy focus on music-- and I was astounded to see so much GOOD music. Seriously. We started off with one hymn, all together, and then we were told we could sit. After that was a full hour of various churchy duets, solos, full band numbers... you name it. There were guitar solos, multiple keyboards/pianos, and soloists-- mostly older woman-- who can seriously belt out a note. It was really quite dumbfounding.

Unfortunately, the sermon completely lost me. It was the driest to date, and probably the longest. It was very teach-y, speaking to specific scripture and elaborating on what it meant-- like an adult Sunday school, but I believe their actual Bible study was at a different time. (By which I mean that I don't think we accidentally stumbled into an actual adult Sunday school, though I know they exist.) Here's the thing, though-- I seemed to be the only person having a hard time paying attention. Most everyone else sat there attentively, for which I commend them. Maybe it's an acquired taste, but I did not enjoy it.

So the church balanced out for me. I really loved the first hour but the second one left me uninspired (though I honestly tried to listen and take it in) and unaffected.

Brad: Well, Erica and I visited another very, very long church.

When we first got there, we saw that their weren't a lot of people at this church. We had to wait in the car a few minutes before we saw where everyone else was going in. Upon entering, I saw the normal things-people greeting other people in the lobby. The previous service was still running, so sis and I just walked around until things were ready. We came in, and the band was setting up on the huge stage. The church looked very nice, and clean too.

The beginning was ok, although I still have to mention how long it was. I was waiting for us to sit down, but after every song somebody would lead us into a prayer. It all took so long before the sermon, it really made me loose interest, despite by best efforts to keep up with it. There was a lot to take in too, the band was amazing, but overall overpowering.

Then came the sermon, which I found a little dry for my taste. I guess the preacher gave a more "classic" style sermon, because he went on to quote, then define a scriptural passage.

All in all, with the exception of it's length, this wasn't a bad church.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Church # 28: Lakeview United Church of Christ

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
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.


3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Lakeview United Church of Christ
8639 Columbia Road
Maineville, OH 45039

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope-- it's on the way to our grandmother's house.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
According to Wikipedia, UCC is a Protestant Christian church. If anyone has any more info, feel free to let me know.

8. Who did you meet?
The pastor himself, John Specht, welcomed us when we came and when we left.

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

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

ERICA: We almost didn't find this church. We were on our way to another church that we thought started at 10:30, but in actuality it started at 10:45 so we were way early. While cruising to see if there were any slightly earlier churches, we found this one... but their sign was so small and so hard to read that we almost skipped right past it.

When we pulled into Lakeview (what lake?!) I noticed that the back of the church was far more ornate and beautiful than the front (facing the road)-- which I really liked. It made me feel like the church cared more about what the congregation thought of it than what the rest of the passersby did. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's what I took away.

When we parked we noticed that it was what we'd been calling an "old church"-- we didn't see anyone entering the church who was anywhere near our age. (This is not a good or bad thing, just something we tend to notice.) Inside we were welcomed by pastor John Sprecht and we entered the auditorium, which had some of the most beautiful stained glass I've seen so far (check out the picture, which doesn't do it too much justice).

I don't know much about the United Church of Christ, but everything was scripted out in the program. There wasn't too much standing-- yea! The prelude was a piano piece played by a young kid (younger than Bradley), and I really really liked it-- I wish I knew what song it was. Very pretty (and well played, I might add). The rest of the music was fairly traditional-- hymnals and the like.

They brought up the guy who redesigned their website, and they passed around bookmarks with the URL. (Dot com! La di da!) I wish their new site had some information about what the UCC stands for, so I wouldn't have to turn to Wikipedia for that information-- but I guess most of the people visiting their site already know, right?

The sermon didn't particularly affect me, although he did start talking about advertising! He mentioned (half joking?) that if he hadn't become a pastor, he would have been in advertising. (If you don't know, that's what I do for a living.)

The rest was... normal. Oh! Except they passed ledgers around for attendance/newcomer information (which is normal).... but during the dismissal, the pastor welcomed us by name (someone who gathered the ledgers must have given him the names that were collected). That was very surprising and while I was taken aback, I definitely think it was a great idea. Very simple and very meaningful.

We were welcomed again (twice) as we were leaving. Altogether a very welcoming, comfortable church, but nothing that spoke directly to my heart.

BRADLEY: Well, this was a great little church in Loveland. When we first saw it, the sign was small, and the front resembled a bunker to me, with large concrete walls, and a very flat front. Although the front looked like this, the back of the church looked really simple, and clean. This was a good thing. We walked in with some other people to a large group of people just standing around talking to one another. This seems normal, or at least common in most churches.

We faded into the auditorium, and were greeted by the candle lighting, and some hymnals. The music wasn't great, but the single pianos were pretty cool. I would have loved to see a little more in the music department, but like the announcements would later say, they were short a few members due to a retreat.

Then they brought up the man who designed the church's website. I was happy to see they were treating their webmaster so well. It was also pretty cool to see a church like that go online. It's just such an unknown vast for so many people.

The sermon wasn't too bad, but could have (in my opinion) used a little more "ummpff". He started it off with a SuperBowl commercial segway, which I found totally weird. I guess I just wasn't expecting it. Anyway, they passed out bookmarks which I really liked. (to commemorate their website) This was a good little church, and beautiful as ever.