I found out through Facebook, as well as in private email, that a congregation with whom I've been in very loose association over the past ten years moved into their new sanctuary for worship beginning last Sunday, Easter. I was sorry to have missed the big event but I understand that the Easter service was SRO. My acquaintances who were there tell me it was packed.
The congregation experiences a great deal of churn or turnover in families, as people move in and out of the area. Several people I've grown close to there moved away. The construction of the new sanctuary, which must be complete enough to obtain a CO, took many years. It's a relatively small congregation, as most Protestant churches are, with limited resources. The economic downturn hit the area hard and church leadership was committed to not acquiring debt.
Besides being personally interested in the "end result," I chose to post pictures of the interior for those who had moved away. So I visited this morning on, as it happens, their annual "youth weekend." Dumb luck that. I had brought in a couple of still cameras deciding my video camera wasn't necessary. I was later sorry. One of the youth performed a breakdancing routine right there on the platform at the front of the sanctuary. The pastor had set up the introduction to the youth service as a whole by reminding us that Wesley's hymns employed bar tunes and were roundly rejected by the ecclesial establishment. Yet we love these songs today, 200+ years later!
The breakdancer was very talented, there's no question. He did a nice job. But in the back of my mind, I supposed he might recall this occasion twenty or thirty years from now and ask why his elders allowed him to embarrass himself like this. "Where was the leadership?! The guidance?!" Because things that are momentarily "cool" have a way of biting us down the road.
Otherwise, there was a praise band which also played exceptionally. I was familiar with two of the songs, one of which I liked very much the first 500 times I heard it. These things get overplayed in churches and on the radio. Somebody so unevangelical as me shouldn't even know the words to these songs, but I do.
The pastor had the day off preaching because the man who conducted the youth weekend preached on 1 Peter 1:13 to, I think, verse 23. I brought my own NIV, providentially, because it seems they haven't added any pew Bibles despite now having many more pews. Maybe new Bibles are on order or they are contemplating a switch to the ESV. Or counting on people to bring electronic Bibles? It's moving in that direction.
Someone read the passage and her words didn't match up with my NIV text. The preacher also seemed to be working from a version different from mine. It could have been the ESV in both cases. Nobody uses the new 2011 NIV, right? The preacher was eager to provide context so he applied the "20/20 rule" which means to read 20 verses before your passage and 20 after. But, of course, verse 13 doesn't have 20 preceding verses and he certainly didn't read beyond verse 23 because he ran out of time!
I was a little excited that he covered the preceding section because we'd read 1 Peter 1:3-9 last night and, either the way the lector read it or the way it was punctuated in my missal, it made no sense. So I intended to look at the passage in another translation and here was my chance ...
The only bit about the sermon that I liked was when he said that a more literal translation of verse 13 is "gird up the loins of your mind"1 and he referred us back to Exodus 12. For myself, it was meaningful because we'd just gone through Passover/Easter and the Exodus traditions were fresh in my mind. Moreover, I'm finishing up a Community Bible Study of 1 & 2 Peter and the study commentary also translated verse 13 in that literal, very graphic way.2
Things that were missing from the service: no corporate confession of sin3, no Creed, no Lord's Prayer, no Lord's Supper. It was praise music, breakdancing, testimony, offering, preaching, and benediction. When I entered the sanctuary, I walked in directly from the parking lot rather than wind my way through people in the Fellowship Hall. But exiting, there was virtually no way to avoid passing through the Fellowship Hall. I had heard that it had been turned into a Seattle's Best Coffee House and so it has. In the past, Christian Adult Education used to meet in the Fellowship Hall. I asked the lady who runs a number of things in the church and she says that one Ad. Ed. group does still meet there very informally but other groups meet in logical spaces: the parenting class meets in the nursery and the Chesterton book club (yes, you read that right. More on that in a second!) meets in the pastor's anteroom.
The announcements made mention of a weekly church book club. I've always wanted to be in a book club. My parish started one last summer and it's going strong but they don't read religious books. It's large and packed with school teachers who monopolize the conversation. I could never get a word in. I had to quit when school resumed again anyway. So the book is Orthodoxy and the group is two weeks in. I think I can catch up especially because they aren't meeting for Mother's Day. I'll let you know how that goes!
1 which is exactly as the NAB renders it, surprise! (note 7)
2 "The English paraphrases a more graphic figure of speech in the original Greek: gird up the loins of your mind. The image of a man cinching up his cloak in his belt before beginning his work was a familiar one (see also Ephesians 6:14)." Community Bible Study materials, page 25 (authored by Dr. James Edwards).
3 you'll find this in more liberal quarters!