Jane and I visited one of our churches in Columbia City this past Sunday. By "our" I mean it is in our denomination. I believe it is actually the largest church in our district too. It used to be trumpeted as the one the rest of us were supposed to grow up to be like. They have a big building, big staff, lots of people... So I was eager to visit on a Sunday while I had the opportunity.
They have two services, and we attended the later 10:30 am service. We walked in and stood there for a moment. They have a huge entryway, which is nice, and it was full of people chatting together and sipping coffee and holding their Bibles and some sitting in nice chairs and couches and so on. We both had to pee so we decided to do that first. I had been in the building several times before and thought the restrooms were both right there. Jane went into the women's room and I started in search of the mens. I went down the first hallway, passing several people who smiled at me, but didn't find it. So I went back and tried the opposite hallway. Again, no luck. So I kind of stood in the middle of the big entryway scanning the walls for a sign or something... nothing. Finally Jane came out and we both looked around, but we never did find the men's room. It was about time for things to start so we just went in the sanctuary and found a seat.
There was a lot of chit-chat going on still. One woman smiled at us. We took a seat in the middle about 3/4 of the way back. Jane was looking through the bulletin and I glanced at it now and then, but I swear every time I looked up it seemed like everyone was looking at us. Some of them smiled when we made eye contact, but most of them just... looked.
Finally the service started. They have a huge worship band spread across a really big stage. They had 2 drummers, 2 guitars, bass, keyboard, several singers, and the woman playing the grand piano was very obviously the worship leader. She had a great voice and was quite talented. However, just as I suspected, it wasn't very participatory. It was also pretty happy-clappy for me. The sound and lighting and visuals were all fantastic... it just seemed I was never really able to worship though.
Eventually the pastor appeared out of the darkness and it was time for the message. I was looking forward to this most of all because, while I have met the guy a couple of times, I don't really know him. He just seemed like someone that would give a good sermon. I have to say, though, I was a little disappointed. I don't know if he was distracted on this morning or what, but there were several times where he just made no sense at all. I can't believe he is like that all the time, but it was less than good on this Sunday.
So when it was over we kind of looked at each other... and walked out. We walked through the large entryway, and both sets of glass doors, made our way to our car, and drove off. Not a single person spoke to us the entire time. I thought maybe I was just being a little too negative or something, but Jane was the first to speak her disappointment. Again, it was just one Sunday, and maybe our expectations were a little high, but we were pretty disappointed overall. I'm sure it could have just been us, or maybe it was just this day, but it wasn't very warm and inviting at all. Oh well.
I am resisting the urge to draw any real conclusions from this. Just writing it down for posterity. I'm sure they are really good people and they are trying really hard. I was disappointed though. Next week we will move on to another place.