On listening to injustice and my new direction

I am going to explain to you about my new direction for the church project. Stay with me, I know this sounds off topic.

During the process to wait for a healthy infant of any ethnic background, and the process to adopt a particular child of both white and black background, I read about racially mixed families. And I learned some stuff.

I am white. I come from a really white saturated area. My husband is white. In learning about opening our family to a baby with a different background from us, most sources said it would be important to connect with communities of people that look like our baby. And I gathered that it would be important to listen. And I have been listening as best I can. It had not seemed important before to discover what it was like to be stopped by the police while black. It does now. I’m sorry I’m late.

Once I started listening, I heard from many communities of people who suffer injustice. And recent political events brought it all together sharply. My background is Christian. I call myself agnostic. But those Christian stories are still very powerful for me. In them I hear of a man who welcomed outsiders and challenged those in power. And I want to know: is any of that man still in the church today?

As presidential candidate and president-elect, Donald Trump and those around him have by their actions and inaction, caused vitriol and violence towards marginalized groups. People now feel emboldened to threaten and harm in Trump’s name. But I think there’s someone else’s name that needs to be invoked.

Donald Trump has denigrated the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee, and by extention has encouraged others in hatred. There are probably groups I left out. My new church project will ask how the church plans to instead lift them up. I will be asking two questions:

1) How does the church feel about current political events and the recent election?

2) What is the church doing in support of any of the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee?

I will not be doing this in a fixed order, but will try get a mix of locations and denominations. I may revisit churches I’ve been to once and hit a few new ones. I’ll write what responses I get and hopefully have a comprehensive list of good works, protests and outreaches when I am done. If not, then Jesus help us all.

Request for a buddy

I am putting it out there that I’d like someone to accompany me to churches on a Sunday morning. My new church visit speed has hit a new low and I’d like to find a way of not stopping together. If anyone would like to come along to any church I haven’t yet visited please let me know and we will plan it. I am discarding the rule of ten miles as well as the need for any particular order. I am ok with a one time partner or longer term. I just find myself wanting some new motivation. I also decided some time ago to accept invites to someone’s home church. I prefer to drop in unannounced but I can be ok with a more solid plan. I’m just looking for idea to keep the project interesting.

Full Church List

It’s time I compiled a list of churches I’ve visited in alphabetical order by church name. The number after each church is NOT a ranking, it refers the order in which I visited them and it is meant to help you navigate my archive. I would link them all, but my website doesn’t seem to like that.

Albany Second Branch Latter Day Saints (LDS) #65
aka Mormon
All Saints Cathedral (Episcopal) #33
aka under Cathedral
Antioch Christian Fellowship (unknown) #52
Bethlehem Community Church (Nodenom) #5
Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Lutheran- Missouri Synod) #11
Cathedral of All Saints (Episcopal) #33
aka under All
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic) #25
aka under Immaculate
Community United Methodist Church (UMC) #16
aka under Slingerlands
Church of Saint Vincent De Paul (Roman Catholic) #26
aka under ‘Saint’ and ‘Vincent’
Delmar Full Gospel Church (Nodenom) #1
Delmar Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) #15
Delmar Reformed Church (RCA) #10
First Church in Albany (RCA) #39
First Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) #17
First Congregational Church (UCC) #22
First Presbyterian Church in Albany (PCUSA) #64
First Presbyterian Church of Greenbush (PCUSA) #54
“First” Israel AME (AME) #62
aka under Israel
First Reformed Church of Bethlehem (RCA) #19
First United Methodist Church in Delmar (UMC) #14
First United Methodist Church in Rensselaer (UMC) #58
aka under Iglesia
Glenmont Community Church (RCA) #4
Greater Saint John’s Church of God in Christ (COGIC) #51
aka under St. John
Historic Saint Mary’s Church (Roman Catholic) #36
aka under St Mary
Holy Spirit Lutheran (ELCA) #24
aka under Lutheran
Iglesia Emmanuel (UMC) #58
aka under First
Iglesia Pentecostal (Pentecostal) #38
Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic) #25
aka under Cathedral
Israel AME (AME) #62
aka under “First”
Jerusalem Reformed Church (RCA) #21
Journey United Church of Christ (UCC) #23
Kingdom Hall in Bethlehem (Jehovah’s Witness) #3
King’s Chapel in Glenmont (Nodenom) #2
Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit (ELCA) #24
aka under Holy Spirit
Mater Christi (Roman Catholic) #61
Metropolitan New Testament Missionary Baptist (NBC) #37
Mormon see Albany second branch
Mother Theresa’s (Roman Catholic) #42
Mount Calvary Baptist Church (NBC) #40
Mount Moriah Church (Nodenom) #7
Mount Zion Missionary Baptist (?) #48
New Hope Ministries (Assemblies of God) #31
New Horizons Christian Church (Pentecostal) #49
Powerhouse City of Deliverance (Pentecostal) #45
Reigning Life Family Church (nodenom) #60
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal (Episcopal) #32
Saint Francis of Assisi Delaware Avenue (Roman Catholic) #41
Saint Francis of Assisi South End (Roman Catholic) #46
Saint George’s Antiochian Orthodox (EO) #29
Saint John’s Church of God in Christ (COGIC) #51
aka under Greater
Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Joseph (Roman Catholic) #59
Saint Mary’s in Albany (Roman Catholic) #36
aka under Historic
Saint Matthew Lutheran Church (Lutheran-Missouri Synod) #18
Saint Michael’s Chapel (Catholic, non-Novus Ordo) #13
Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) #44
Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) #28
Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church (EO) #20
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) #8
Saint Timothy’s Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA) #56
Saint Thomas the Apostle (Roman Catholic) #9
Saint Vincent De Paul (Roman Catholic) #26
aka under ‘Church’ and ‘Vincent’
Slingerlands Community United Methodist Church (UMC) #16
aka under Community
Solid Rock Church (UPCI) #6
South Bethlehem United Methodist Church (UMC) #57
Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church #53 (NBC)
Terra Nova Church #55 (Nodenom)
Third Reformed Church Albany (RCA) #30
Trinity United Methodist #63 (UMC)
True Witness Apostolic Faith Church (TCAF) #34
Union Dutch Reformed Church (RCA) #35
aka under Unionville
Union Missionary Baptist (?) #43
Unionville Reformed Church (RCA) #35
aka under Union Dutch
Vincent De Paul (Roman Catholic) #26
aka under ‘Saint’ and ‘Church’
Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) #27
White Couch Albany (Nodenom) #50
Wilborn Temple First Church of God in Christ (COGIC) #47

Key:
EO= Eastern Orthodox
LDS=Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
NBC=National Baptist Convention
Nodenom= No denomination given
PCUSA= Presbyterian Church USA
RCA= Reformed Church in America
TCAF= True Church of the Apostolic Faith
UCC= United Church of Christ
UPCI= United Pentecostal Church International

**For further explanation of churches with no denomination, see individual church posts. I try to give explanation when possible as to church origin and philosophy.

*Notice lack of #12? For this one I attended not a public church but instead visited a religious community in Albany called the Bruderhof. The group has a house on Washington Park. They do allow visitors, but they like to be sent a request ahead of time. It is their home after all.

Overview part two of two

Now to continue summing up my posts:

Stylites are pole sitters

I signed a petition- fight hunger!

I wasn’t sure about the new Pope

Eastern Easter was three hours long but I was so absorbed in the whole thing

I wrote a three part piece for Love, Joy, Feminism

I’m better at biblical trivia than some churches!

Pope Francis thinks atheists are redeemed by the blood of Christ; the Vatican does not

I am finding myself tired by the project

31) New Hope Church South- this sermon on integrity is better than the last integrity sermon was. I was only disappointed by lack of fellowship time

32) St Andrew Episcopal- massively good with great messages, a nice post to re-read

Baptism used to be a much lengthier process in the 200’s

I examined grace, faith and works as philosophies

33) All Saints, the other Cathedral- another great re-read, sermon on sin that I actually liked

34) True Witness Apostolic Faith- small, strange

35) Union(ville) RCA- friendly folks, sermon held reminder we are lucky to be far from war in this country

I examine the difficulties of gluten-free worship

Kateri shrine makes me wonder about how true accounts of her story really are

The pope said some stuff about gays. It was far more positive than anyone expected

36) St Mary’s Catholic- this is the church with a turquoise carpet and pastel ceiling

37) Metropolitan New Testament Missionary Baptist- it was like something was missing

38) Iglesia Pentecostal- friendly, great music, they seemed over-concerned about demons though

I find myself stumbling through old church names in the yellow pages

39) First Church, RCA- nice, message includes caring for nature/environmentalist concerns

40) Mt Calvary Baptist- sermon somehow made me feel hopeful about things that seem hopeless, guest pastor was fantastic

41) St Francis of Assisi Delaware Ave- I was told by the deacon the church has gay membership.

42) Mother Theresa Catholic community- despite the appearance I liked the easy welcome and generosity here

43) Union Missionary Baptist- they seem nice but I felt unwelcome to communion

We become the group, the group becomes us

44) St Paul Episcopal- fortress of solitude with friendly coffee hour

45) Powerhouse City of Deliverance- so loud it pushed beyond the sound to peacefulness

46) St Francis Assisi South End- 1000 paper cranes and remembering to push our comfort level

I wrote about stewardship and the Aquabats

Get it together regarding website, Presbys!

God can’t erase the need for human help in depression, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

Read a book by a pastor who probably should have listened to my above advice. She frames the whole thing as a battle against the devil, personified by a deacon in her church

It sounds like early Christianity offered a basis for women and slaves to refuse sex, something they may have been expected to give to their husbands and owners

47) Wilborn COGIC- guest preacher was trite, but cool communion points, with an individual germ-free packet we stood up as a group to eat

The bible is partly fanfic

48) Mt Zion missionary Baptist- I should go again

49) New Horizons- the end is near!

50) White Couch- didn’t do what I was hoping, just kinda fell flat

I was sick a few Sundays and got a little despondent

51) Greater St John COGIC- decent, I decided crazy praise might be a way of fighting depression and (self discovery) learned that God is a terrorist in the Moses story

52) Antioch Fellowship- the minister doing the service told me she loved me

53) Sweet Pilgrim- nice building, great messages, liturgical dance

54) First Presby Greenbush- nice little church, old but newly merged, would be interesting to see where it goes

I am still thinking about how much or little I care about a church’s doctrine and maintenance of rules

55) Terra Nova- I hadn’t noticed before but this church is affiliated with the acts29 group

Easter- I ponder how to be shocked enough at Jesus’ death and in fact all human death

I complain about gender essentialism and point out the Jesus doesn’t seem to have made any statements about the proper roles for men vs women

56) St Tim’s N. Greenbush- ELCA doesn’t disappoint!

I note that I am not just looking for the familiar but intentionally pushing into the unknown

I see God as the possibilities

57) S. Bethlehem UMC- It’s God’s party, he sends the invites

58) Iglesia Emmanuel- fun music, disappointing convo with music director/pastor’s son

I short posted about guns, prayer, and marriage

Making sin right should include considering those outside ourselves hurt by the sin. Christianity often seems to miss this key component in getting wrapped up in fixing the sinner’s relationship with God.

Grand St Church in someone’s home via video- disorganized and amateurish

59) St John Evangelist/St Joseph- interesting to look at, otherwise unmemorable

I examine a Catholic same-gender attraction support group via online

60) Reigning Life- white patriarchal leadership of friendly black congregation…strange

I wonder why we lump different Christian groups together as if they are a homogeneous mass

I talk about the fact that taking notes helps me absorb the message better

And now we’re pretty much up to speed.

Overview part one of two

I’m feeling the need to evaluate the project again as a whole. Interestingly, my limit before I want to do this seems to be 30 churches. I decided to re-read all my posts to find out what I’d forgotten about the visits, if anything. After visit #30 I came across the post about how I needed a break to contemplate the project. So that’s helpful, since I can now expect to make it to 90 then take another look back.

After reading through the blog I made notes as sort of a quick reference to each church or religious thought post. Here are the notes, in case you are interested:

Opening post: My rules have changed a lot.

1) Delmar Full Gosp, only negative I rember is pastor’s advice

I couldn’t find St Mikes service time

2) King’s Chapel, story of moon worshipped

3) Jehovah’s Witnesses, kinda scared

4) Glenmont Community, Abby, and friendly people who offer hugs

I reviewed Dogma.
I was so optimistic. What happened?

5) BCC- I was bored

6) Solid Rock actually were several positives here I have forgotten

7) Mount Moriah, wasn’t really that bad. Pastor Jesse seems fine. But the book- so wacky

8) I stayed so long at St Stephens
Also did I cause a dust up over atheists and article 13?

9) St. Thomas, extremely disappointing

10) I forgot how happy Delmar Reform made me. People there were so relaxed and chill.

11) Bethlehem Lutheran gave a null vibe

12) Parkview!

I got a little discouraged about prayer

13) St Mikes Chapel mentioned a fish carrying a sack symbol
* I drove by The Chapel recently only to discover they finally put up a sign listing mass time. Did I have anything to do with that?

Christianese was the beginning of my discovery into the origins of heaven/hell/purgatory
Christianese was also my first exposure to obviously wrong and bad theology: conceptually and scientifically impossible things

I make the most killer argument against condemning homosexuality!

14) First Methodist- Iona Dickinson- and I did get to hold a baby. High church but very friendly

Was already tired but still fairly optimistic about project outcomes

15) Delmar Presby was a nice first visit

16) Slingerlands UMC, wow, great sunny Methodist service about David’s Ducky. So much to write!

17) Christian Science pretty much just confuses me

18) New low- older membership at St Matts Lutheran church, pastor says when you feel you can give no more, STOP BEING SINFUL AND GIVE MORE

All interim pastors are named Bob

Remember the naked man in the gospels

19) 1st Reformed of Bethlehem in Selkirk, upstairs from food pantry- didn’t do much for me otherwise

I compare the myth of the perfect church to ‘one true love’ and monogamy

20) St Sophia’s was sensory glorious

21) Jerusalem Reformed had an outdoor service and I learned about Michal and David’s underwear

22) Great vibe over at First Congregational. Pastor seems very introspective.

Still fed up about prayer

Retreat with seekers is more of a self reflective baby-holdathon than informative

I was recognized quite a bit in those days, mostly in reform churches

Remember the woman in Ireland named Savita? I wrote about it

Joan of Ark…I crack me up

Santa and Christians rant

I wrote the most awesome stuff about being nice to atheists and everybody

Two posts on good and evil- can good exist in the absence of evil for comparison? If we made a paradise would forgetting evil make us revisit it?

Another pretty awesome piece about Scrooge only realizing his error when it was pointed out that has underpayment of Bob Cratchit sentenced a young innocent to death (Tiny Tim). Repentance of ignorance.

23) I expected great things from Journey UCC and was underwhelmed

24) Holy Spirit ELCA! I felt really welcomed

Freakin amazing Star Trek parallel. I’m on fire baby!

25) Immac Cathedral- how do these people fellowship?

26) Vincent de Paul is for families

27) Westminster Presby nice, church with hotel looking fellowship area. I stayed for after worship discussion of a book pastor is reading

I rambled on empathy

28) St Peters Episcopal- Carly and the five points of view to the prodigal son story

Lent- fasting in the desert, mourning Jesus

29) Cheesefare Sunday at the St George Orthodox Church

Superstar takeaway- we all have it in us to commit violence. We all kill Jesus.

30) Third Reformed- in which I wonder if Jesus ran out of ectoplasm before he could appear to everyone in the entire world. (We heard the story of Thomas)

So that’s notes on half #1 of the project. I was learning a lot along the lines of theologies. In retrospect, I was understanding Christianity as far more similar to itself than I now understand. I forgot several interesting or amusing things from the visits. It’s nice to revisit the different things I wrote and see the positives again.

Project Adjustments

So, you might have noticed I slimmed down the format for posts about churches. I’m shortening the amount I write in the hopes this will save me a little time. I’ve split the section usually called ‘thoughts’ into two categories: 1) useful takeaways 2) problems/improvements. I really want to drive myself to find useful stuff in attending these churches. Sometimes there is a lot of great stuff in the direct message. Other times I find myself branching off from the actual message and discovering something useful in what was unspoken. Then there’s the occasional unintended positive message a church is broadcasting without really being aware of it. On the flip side, churches also give direct and indirect messages I may find unhelpful. When this is the case I say so and explain why I’m thinking improvement is needed.

Another thing I’ve been changing recently has been church visit order. I had planned to keep a strict itinerary in terms of which church I’m visiting next, but a number of circumstances are making that less feasible. The biggest one being, working Sunday afternoons interferes with late running services. In some cases I have to pick a church I know will have a shorter service or mass. In other cases it’s related to start time of the church. Since I’ve started making this adjustment, the order I had carefully figured out is getting a bit mixed up. So I’m deciding to roll with it. With the relaxation of (but not total loss of) my church pattern, I am more free to bump a church to the beginning if I so choose. The next few churches I visit will be those I’ve been recommended and those I’ve been intensely curious about. It should be interesting.

What is this project doing for me?

A couple of thoughts occurred to me. They are opposites and I don’t know what to make of them.
Firstly, I don’t know that the church project is actually allowing me connections with other people. I visit a church, then move on. Perhaps I’m going about this wrong.
Thought two, each time I leave a church and examine what I’ve written in my personal journal, I find something new to think about. Be it good or bad, I always find a new twist or wrinkle in what I think of as church or religion. I am always learning about the world and myself. Perhaps I’m going about this right.
No conclusions today. But that can be ok.