Church #56, St Timothy’s in North Greenbush

Date: 4/27/14

Church name/type: St Timothy’s Church, ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church America)

Pastor: Greg Tennerman

Style of worship: Parts of the service were organized into a particular order, but each portion was approached casually

Useful takeaways:
The entire service with hymnal page numbers and bible selections was printed on the church handout. There’s virtually no way to get lost and if you did, the pastor seems chill enough that it would be ok.

Another great thing, the seats are cushioned, with a rounded lower back. I’ve actually never seen seats like this. I don’t know if they work for everyone, but the little bit of low back support was really nice for me.

The sermon was about Doubting Thomas. It’s kind of tradition to tell this story on the Sunday following Easter because it’s the only story we are sure happened (first half anyway) on this Sunday. The interesting thing about the story is that Jesus appears to his frightened disciples and tells them to pick up where he left off. Then a week later they are still spending their day in a room with the doors locked! They haven’t gone out and taken a chance on Jesus’ words. They haven’t spread his news or healed anyone or helped the sick. This serves to remind us that the disciples are like us. We hesitate. What is it we are waiting to begin? What good thing should we be starting that we are not?

The last question the pastor posed was about signs of the resurrection. Of course we just had Easter and so the resurrection is still very close in terms of church calendar and in our minds. He gave some examples and told a few stories of miraculous (and possibly miraculous) occurrences. My favorite was the fish story. At one point the pastor owned a large fish tank with one little fish inside. One day, Good Friday no less, the fish went missing. Everyone assumed it managed to jump out of the tank and died. Come Easter morning, the fish was there swimming around like nothing happened! The question the pastor asked us was this: Is it proof of the resurrection for you? I love the open-endedness of this question. People see their faith very personally. And in different ways from each other. Of all the stories we hear, some speak to us and some don’t. Every person gets to decide what speaks to them. I like that.

Problems/Improvements: No one actually greeted me on their own before or after the service, although I did get a lot of smiles. It’s a little tough to say for sure how I might have been greeted had I not immediately tried to find my contact new friend Marilyn after service. The other unusual thing was the large number of visitors present for a baptism. Definitely not a typical week, so I guess I don’t really know if the greeting style needs work or not.

One other thing that is less a problem and more an unusual thing, is the building. It’s clean, painted and kept well, but not shaped much like a church. I thought it was an elementary school. I was going to park at the ‘school’ and examine my map program again to find the church when I realized I was at the church. Again not so much a problem per se but something to be aware of should you be having trouble finding it.

Church #18, St Matthew Lutheran Church, Albany

Date: 9/9/12

Church name/type: St Matthew Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod

Format summary: Formal, the usual parts, heavier on scripture and song- in particular there were extra verses imbedded in the sermon

Overall Impression: um…good music?


My impression of Lutheran churches so far is one of boredom. It feels just like a half-dead Catholic mass, only worse because it is more unfamiliar to me. This church wasn’t outright bad in any big concrete way, I just found little in there to recommend it.

There weren’t too many people at service. I don’t know how they support that school of theirs. Quite a few members were a bit on the older-side, you know, they looked like grandmas. Grandmas are fine, but a church full of them may be in some trouble.

The sermon did the exact opposite of something cool for me. It was mostly an exhortation to give more time, talent, and money. The pastor made a point of saying that we may feel as though we have reached our limit of giving and can give no more. He then said this is the time to conquer our sinfulness and give even more- and do it cheerfully! In my opinion, right now when so many are struggling, it is just plain rude to call those who give their best ‘sinful’. It was irresponsible of Pastor Nuss to issue this as a blanket statement when it is not applicable to some. We ought to all judge in our own hearts whether we give enough and act accordingly. There was no reason to make everyone feel not-good-enough.

Last paragraph! I might as well add the one cool thing that happened at this church. I was served communion on my tongue. It was cool in a weird way. It felt very old-school, like suddenly I was back in the early church before all the splits happened.

Noticed by anyone?: No one talked to me beyond the pastor. I mentioned my project but he was unconcerned about the details. This may be a new thing I’ll have to start noticing.

Church #11, part 2

Date: 5/27/12

Church: Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Pastor: Reverend David Dietsche

Time Spent: 10:30-11:40am

Overall Impression: service is still not enticing; people exactly opposite- ditto from last time! I am thinking the benefit of attending services twice just to catch old school vs. new school is minimal. I probably won’t do it again soon.

Type: Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod

Format: Service structure was written in full on the paper handout. In brief it went: announcements, group confession statement, scripture readings, sermon, offering, prayer, and closing (hymns were sprinkled throughout)

Thoughts: Similar to last time I was at this church, I felt very little from the service itself. There was such a weird zero vibe from anyone in the sanctuary. No one bothered to greet me apart from the official greeters and the room felt sort of lifeless. I cannot follow this pastor’s sermon style. The message was a comparison of the disciples at Pentecost with us today in our own lives…but that’s all got for sure. How are we like them? I don’t know. The crowd was a bit of an older one, so I’m wondering if my laid back attire could in any way have offended them. Then again I did have a really nice interaction with a couple who told me they’d been attending for close to 30 years, after the service was over. So overall this church wasn’t my favorite, but I can’t call it an awful experience either.

Overall Feelings: The people are so nice and the service was so dull. I’m stumped how to rate this church…

Church #11, Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Date: 4/22/12

Church: Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Pastor: Reverend David Dietsche

Time Spent: 10:30-11:50am

Overall Impression: Good mixed with just ok

Type: Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod

Format: Contemporary Worship: songs, sermon, prayer, closing song

announcements were either first or last, I didn’t record it and have forgotten

Thoughts: This church had an unusual mix of likes and dislikes for me. The service itself didn’t wow me and I didn’t really like it until the very last song which was fast paced. On the other hand afterwards talking with a couple of people was really nice and felt connecting. I guess it’s possible I found a place that I dig the people but not the content.

Service summary:

The songs were unknown to me and I didn’t outright love any of them. All except the last one which was fun and fast. But, it was also clear that the young worship team was really having a blast performing and that enjoyed being there. I applaud that, and I always find it exciting to see a church with an active youth set. In my experience youth events are always way more fun than adult events. The sermon was a tad rambley and I kept reaching different conclusions than the pastor on his points. He suggested that the apostles should have read scripture to understand that Jesus was coming back, then they wouldn’t have been so shocked. I don’t think scripture would have helped them as the Christ predictions were far too ambiguous to be understood as referring to him. Also it certainly wasn’t the practice at the time to have scripture/scrolls lying around the house to peruse. They may not have been allowed to access the temple scrolls at their leisure. Or even had any leisure. It was also in the message that if one doesn’t understand scripture (or even suspects this is the case) it is up to that person to find a teacher to explain it. I like being able to read the bible without needing to consult a leader or pastor. I find it somewhat limited to ask a single person, when a discerning google user can come up with many explanations from learned sources to help see what others have said they see. Ultimately I want to know what I’m going to see from scripture. We were given an example of a misconception of scripture in the common quote “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” The idea is not in the bible in this form. I always perceived it as a take on Luke 4:23 when Jesus says, “Physician heal yourself.” When Jesus says it he remarks that it is a proverb (although it isn’t in the book of Proverbs) and he uses it in kind of a new way. Maybe I’m the only one to draw that parallel though.

People summary:

I wasn’t greeted at this church. Maybe they all just keep to themselves a bit or maybe they didn’t recognize me as new. When this happens I do still try to catch a member or at the very least the pastor afterwords to talk briefly. Sometimes it doesn’t lead anywhere because people aren’t expecting to converse with me. This has been the case in several Catholic churches. This time the people I engaged, engaged me right back. I spent several minutes talking with one of the musicians about the youth band and youth activities. And when I approached the pastor we had some talks about churches in general and it was clear he approved of my exploration project. So the people seem quiet until approached, and once approached they are friendly and easygoing.

Overall Feelings: I like this place even with the mixed vibe. They seem to have a number of bible reads and studies. Maybe I can get in on some of that and find more friendly people.