Friday, August 08, 2008

Mission Story #4: a Tale of Three Churches

On the trip down to San Francisco, we stayed two nights with Brian Brown, pastor of New Hope Community Covenant Church in Antioch, CA. Brian and I became friends back when we were both youth pastors in the Central Valley, he in Stockton and me in Turlock. He (and his very pregnant wife Rachel) were gracious enough to let us all crash at their place and take over their bathrooms and kitchen for a bit.

On Sunday morning, we attended the worship service at New Hope. But it wasn't a normal service. New Hope meets in a school's auditorium, so they thought it would be a nice reflection of God's love to do a service project that morning, cleaning up trash around the school grounds. So they began with an abbreviated, 30-minute service, with the Lakebay team leading the music and Brian giving a short "talk," and then went into the service project. We joined them for a bit, and then headed off into our week of mission work in San Francisco.

On Thursday of that week, we attended the Evensong service at Grace Cathedral, the Episcopal mothership in San Francisco. Evensong is a hybrid Vespers/Compline service, made up of prayers and scriptures, some spoken and some sung. No sermon, no anouncements, just music and scripture. And the music is glorious, if you like classical music (not so much if you're preference is hip-hop or country). There is a majesty and holiness to the worship at Grace, a sense of awe and mystery that you don't usually get in contemporary music. So it's good to take part of, every once in awhile.

On the way home, we spent the night at Valley Covenant in Eugene. On Sunday mornings, they hold a short communion service before the regular worship service. It's about 30 minutes of scripture, prayer, and then the Lord's Supper. Our group joined them for this service, electing to leave before the main service kicked off, so that we could get some breakfast and then drive home. And it was a blessed time; I think our people really enjoyed the simple yet elegant format, and the opportunity to share Communion with our brothers and sisters from Oregon.

But you see the thread, right? Three churches, all "alternative" services. All focusing on music and scripture, with little or no speaking by the preacher-man. Three services that all lasted 30-45 minutes at the longest.

And so it was that one of our younger group members, one with little church experience besides Lakebay, came up to me following Valley Covenant's service and asked "Dan, do they ever preach sermons in other churches, or is that just something we made up at Lakebay?"

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