Church name/type: Journey UCC (United Church of Christ)
Format summary: Very open format; we sang a little, heard a reading, heard a message, prayed some intentions, and said some words together
Overall Impression: Meh.
At first I was really excited about this church. The building was small but full, in a location hidden behind a dentist office. This type of thing is usually a signal that the church is new, vibrant, growing and working towards a new space for the expanding congregation. They are moving in March I was told, but the location sounds to be just as hidden in another existing building. Well that’s really not a reason to fault them. A church is not a building right? But it does have to exist in one. The building currently in use is small but painted in a warm French vanilla color. The back wall is one third taken up by a large rainbow flag so, as I found at the last UCC church, the membership is open those of all sexualities. I see that as a positive. There didn’t seem to be a bulletin or any literature about the church anywhere around. I tend to take a brochure or pamphlet of some kind if I can. Maybe this place is too casual for that. So when I arrived and walked in a woman near the door greeted me and offered me food and coffee. It seems that they all snack during service and no one minds. Ok, they are very relaxed and I started to imagine lovely conversations I’m going to have with this group afterwards.
Next comes the actual service content. The message was in part about “extravagant welcome”. This was vague at best. We watched a commercial put out by the UCC in 2006 called “Bouncer” which was supposed to illustrate this type of welcome. We heard the commercial was extremely controversial. It seemed mostly to deal with accepting race differences, but on watching it again at home via YouTube I did notice a couple of females holding hands. Probably this was a very understated nod to same sex couples. I also noted the participants in the bouncer commercial are well-dressed- no commentary on poverty I see. Overall this really doesn’t strike me as a radical commercial. Our guest fill-in speaker talked about being accepting of gays and how good it is that this church does that. Especially given the rainbow flag in the room, I don’t see how this message was pertinent. Telling people in a church to be ok with gay couples is pointless if they already are ok with gay couples. If that’s been established I expect a new or at least more nuanced message. The one good bit was when the speaker talked about slavery as compared to homosexuality. Both have been cited as biblical and both have passed their expiration date. I like that this was something we might use as a point when speaking with others who are still on the fence about same sex relationships. Slavery was very much condoned and approved by religious teachers who used bible verses. The fact that we have changed our views on that should signal us that change is still possible regarding other concepts. The rest of the message was a bit boring and hard to follow. I was fairly annoyed by the lack of bulletin by the end. The projection screen with lyrics and prayers wasn’t very visible owing to the low ceiling and people’s heads in my way. I’ve never been in love with projection screens; they are often hard to read because of distance or font, and they have no musical notation to follow. This church would benefit from a printed version of the prayers and songs.
So the closing was spoken and I waited around a few minutes for some extravagant welcome, maybe more snacking and some conversation. One new person greeted me; we didn’t talk alot. There wasn’t any fellowship after the service- I suppose because we all ate during the service. All kinds of talk about welcoming and I didn’t get much of it. I miss an actual fellowship hour. And if the sermon includes reference to “welcoming” I ought to feel welcomed. So what happened this time? Was it just an off week? The Pastor was away, maybe without her lead the congregation forgets who is new and how to say hello to them? Are they just reserved until they see you a few times? Or did I fit in so well they thought I was already a member? Whatever happened it was a disappointing end to an only moderately interesting service.
Another look?: As with every church I do realize that this was just a single visit. It is always possible the further visits would give me a more positive view. Also possibly a more negative view. I just don’t know. The nature of my project and my rules tells me to visit each church minimally however, so I can get them all done in the next few years- so it’s onward from here.