of denominations and puppets: the first three churches

Here’s the run-down of my Saturday church experiences, the first three services of what could end up a radical TEN-church-service weekend!

always more to experience (Tempe Seventh-Day Adventist)

What do you get the man who has 150+ church services under his belt? How about… a visit to an unfamiliar denomination, at an unfamiliar time, on a day when the sermon discusses a unique doctrine in that denomination? My visit Saturday morning to Tempe Seventh-Day Adventist Church was unique indeed, in all sorts of big and small ways. That’s a real blessing as I continue to explore U.S. Christianity.

Several components of the service were new or comparitively rare for me: asking for volunteer song leaders, encouraging visitors (like me) to introduce ourselves publicly, a pre-sermon “children’s lesson,” public thanksgivings, and more. But most intriguing of all was getting to hear a sermon on the Adventist doctrine of “Soul Sleep.” It’s far more fun to hear doctrinal discussion “from the horse’s mouth” than just to read about it on Wikipedia.

energy & exposition (Community Church of Joy, Glendale)

My second and third church visits took me to the northside, with pretty ambitious hopes for attending 2 churches in a pretty small window of time.

First up, Community Church of Joy, a member of a Lutheran denomination I hadn’t heard of until I found CCOJ. As I noted on Twitter, I didn’t remember that the Saturday service meets in a separate building (and there was no signage), so I wound up mingling a bit with a wedding reception as I looked for the worship service. Yes, they were in tuxedos and dresses. Yes, I was in Gap pants and a John Brown University T-shirt. (Which was perfectly fitting for tonight’s church services, by the way, but not for a wedding.)

I found the service on time, and this was possibly the most energetic worship I’ve seen this year, at least from a few attendees. While freedom in worship and Charismatic emphases don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, I did discover this church has both.

As for the sermon, they seem to be working their way through the Book of Acts this summer, a method I’ve found to be surprisingly rare this year. Personally, I tend to really like those kinds of series.

This service actually went longer than I was guessing, which worried me for making Church #3…

this drama feels long… (Christ’s Church of the Valley, Peoria)

I almost gave up on the next church because I knew I’d be pretty late. (I’ve been surprisingly good about punctuality this year.)

I went anyway, and even though I was late, things still worked out quite beautifully. Why? Because this was a very special edition of Christ’s Church of the Valley‘s weekend church service.

If you check the Twitter updates for that service, they’re pretty humorous. You’ll notice I first thought I arrived in the middle of a “drama” illustrating the theme of the service. After a few minutes, though, I started thinking that this drama was awfully lengthy…

Then I noticed the bulletin, which informed me that, indeed, “This service, presented by the Children’s Ministry, is a unique opportunity for children ages 3 and up to join their family in the Worship Center for a fun and creative service designed to give parents valuable tools for becoming the spiritual leaders of their family.” It’s all part of a series called “Shaping a Generation,” and I lucked out and observed Children’s week.

So, I got two additional puppets during that service than I was expecting, and watched LOTS of adults acting appropriately ridiculous. It was a great presentation for the intended audience, I’m sure… but I wasn’t too worried anymore about missing the first minutes of the service.

And in case you’re wondering, attendance was quite high. CCV has actually been on all kinds of fastest-growing / largest / most-influential lists over the past few years.

Posted from Motel 6 in Tempe, Arizona

Leave a Reply