Whenever we travel, we always try to attend a church that is doing things differently than we do. I hope the experience will stretch me and open me to a new way of doing what we do at Cambridge Drive.
Last weekend was our anniversary. We didn't have time or money to do a real vacation so we drove north to O'town and visited our daughter and son-in-law for a few days. We decided to cross the bridge and attend Glide Memorial Church on Sunday morning. It was a unique experience. I've never been to a church before where the website advised you to arrive at least 1/2 hour early to ensure getting a seat. Sure enough, the line was over a block long before the doors opened to allow us in. During the service, the pastor asked the members of the congregation to stand. Less than 1/3 of the people attending stood. The group standing were significantly more diverse - all colors, sexual orientations, economic settings, ages - than the mostly white tourists attending.
The service itself was very much a performance. The band and the choir were killer but rock concert loud in a room with typical lousy church acoustics - making the sound pretty muddy. Still, the excitement was infectious and much of the time everyone was on their feet clapping along. There was only one song that was clearly meant for the congregation to join in singing so it felt more like a performance than a worship service. A group who had recently returned from a work trip to Kenya spoke during the sermon time... they did a very good job, clear, succinct, and meaningful. There was little prayer, no time of silence, and I don't recall anyone mentioning Jesus. My daughter Alexis found the experience way too intense and blogged about it here.
I was struck by the difficulties of doing worship in a congregation comprised of folk without shared history or even commitments. I was reminded of the difficulty of doing ministry in urban areas and the resources that work requires. I was thrilled with an obvious welcome that was there for all without question or hesitation. I'm glad that Glide is there. They provide a version of the gospel that is rarely seen and open doors to folk very few churches would welcome. Still, it isn't for me... but it doesn't need to be.
So, what did I learn? There is room for a progressive gospel and a style that is culturally relevant. Indeed, even tourists want to experience it. I would expect that at least some of the folk there left with a new hunger to find a church that would actually accept them as they are and speak to them in ways that touched their lives when they returned home. I learned that I can never take the need for balance in worship for granted. I learned that I feel pretty good about who we are, what we are doing, and the journey we are on at Cambridge Drive.