Two weeks ago, I visited a fairly prominent church that I had watched during its construction. It was a denomination I am really familiar with, and I looked forward to visiting services there for the first time.
I decided, after much thought, NOT to post the name of the church. When I began this blog, I went back and forth in my mind about when and whether to link directly to church names and congregations. Sometimes, most of the time, I will. If the church is absolutely amazing, I will post it. If the church seems to me to be far off the mark, biblically or otherwise, I will post it then as well. I have received a little bit of interest in my project, and some teasing as well-- if I visit a church with live sacrifices or other practices that seem startling, I will let people know!
But this... I think this is a case of personal perception. And because the feeling was based more on my experience and not on something that the church actively does (or does not do), I will not post which church it was.
The building was amazing, a truly beautiful chapel and the hard-wood pews were gleaming. The music, sung by a small praise group (though there was space for a full choir), was lively and moving.
The pastor shared a sermon that his father had written, and was based on several bits of scripture. I took notes, but in the craziness of the current week (new job, getting ready for school, etc) I have misplaced them. I couldn't tell you what the primary message was, and I resolve to take better notes and keep them close by.
It doesn't really matter.
I didn't leave the church with the thought of the sermon in my head.
I was not humming.
I didn't have any sort of glow from interpersonal contact.
What I left with, what has echoed in my head for a little while and caused me the greatest part of my reluctance to write about this visit, was loneliness.
The usher at the door, a sweet gentleman who later came forward to pray over the offering, was my only welcome or acknowledgement in an hour and a half.
There was no call to fill out a welcome card (though a card was enclosed in the still-missing order of worship). There was no stand-and-greet moment in the service. There were people just a few feet down from me in the wooden pew, and they barely made eye contact.
People were visiting, people were chatting, and many different types of service and group worship opportunities were mentioned and shown in the pre-service slide show. I have absolutely no doubt that this is a focused, vital, and engaged congregation.
They just forgot.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."