First, a disclaimer. I am about to tell a joke. About church. It's FUNNY. BUT, if you are easily offended, well then why you're reading my blog is beyond me - and i can tell this joke, you see, because i come from the roots of this joke. And since we "church shopped" today - it's timely.
So here goes.
This lady dies and gets to the pearly gates and is greeted by St. Peter who for the purposes of this joke, is the Julie McCoy of Heaven. St. Peter is going to show the recently deceased around on her first day and they get to the first door and the woman can hear lots of laughter, some people hollering out numbers and in general lots of ruckus - the woman asks who is in there? St. Peter said "The Catholics - they've got a raucous game of bingo going on tonight."
They get to the second door and smells of bacon and pancakes take over her senses and she says to St. Peter - "well, who is in here - it smells divine" and St. Peter says "The Methodist's - they're having their Pancake Supper"
Continuing down the hall, they pass a third door - with a "SHHH...quiet please" sign. Looking for an answer she turns to St. Peter to ask him about who was behind this door, but he raises his finger to still her voice before she speaks and he whispers "SHHH......you MUST be quiet when you pass this door."
"But why" asks the lady, perplexed.
"Because the Baptists are in there and they think they're the only ones here."
Ok - see it's FUNNY.
So today, we church shopped. I am not a religious person. And faithful? Well, i guess that would be determined by your definition of 'faithful'. I am a spiritual person but i think the Bible left too much out. And the fact that it was written by all men, yeah, not such a draw for me. In this house we like our religion traditional and the message liberal. Which is why I am a congregationalist. However I'm a congregationalist without a church. The ex husband got custody of our local UCC in the divorce. That's a story for in itself for another day. And at the time I was all about finding myself and then worrying later about finding God. And then somewhere along my journey - i realized i found both, which i think is what was meant to happen.
My personal belief is that God is too great to be confined to a book, a congregation or a building. God is not black and white, or color within the lines. I don't think God cares one patootie if you're baptist, catholic muslim or hindu. God cares that you CARE. About his people and his earth and universe. And that you are living a life that honors what he gave you. Taking care of those not in a position to take care of themselves. HELPING one another. You are your brother's keeper, his mentor, his conscience, his teacher, his student, his helpmate. All of those things and more.
Thanks, and please pass the offering plate to the ushers in the center aisle. Ok enough about my sermon. I think you get my 'vibe'.
I feel it's important though to have a center and without my church, i've felt center-less. And then last night, we watched "Lars and the Real Girl" on dvd and i longed to go to church because Lars, who's going through a little bit of a "mental-misstep" in his life is embraced by his church and his community and they help him get to the other side of what was a very un-nerving time for his family. (Side note - if you like indie-films and Ryan Gossling and some very real humor - RENT THIS. It starts off slow, but about 15 minutes in you're rooting for this guy and laughing at what his community was doing to help him.)
So, we went on our first soul-searching church shopping mission today to a Methodist church. Vance's choice and because i'm all about being inclusive and those methodists have this great inclusive PR campaign going on right now in all of these TV commercials - i'm like SURE- LET'S GO. This is also how i ended up with gin-zu knives, but i digress. SO...off we go. We enter the vestibule and are about to enter the sanctuary when this gentleman jumps out into the aisle from one of the pews with a camera and starts taking our picture as we attempt to walk to our seat, now blinded by flashbulbs. Through the blur that was now my eyesight i caught this name tag thing he was wearing but couldn't make it out what it said. V was visible disturbed by the whole thing,...me - i was intrigued - if they want to treat me like Jennifer Anniston and have their church paparazzo jump out from the behind the bushes and sides of cars too - well, i'm all for anything that pays homage to the star i obviously am.
It kind of went down hill from there though. We were the youngest couple by far. It was us, and like 100 other people all over the age of 65 and then this slew of kids - like 30 of them from toddlers to 5th grade - and i'm staring all around the church trying to find these kids' parents - i mean HOW DID ALL OF THESE CHILDREN GET HERE? My mind went briefly to wondering if all of these 'retirees' were really "busy" - wink, wink in their golden years and these were their spawn. Then i remembered that i was sitting in church and i should NOT be thinking about AARP members doing it naked. At least not before the passing of the peace.
Then, the choirs started. Now I like a good song. But all at once all this SOUND came blaring out of these BOSE speakers in the corner of the church and it was a SOUNDTRACK. They had a pianist and an organist up front - but they were SITTING, not playing. THEY WERE PROPS. Never did a finger touch a key. BLASPHEMY! There will be no fake music in church - THAT'S WHAT YOU LISTEN TO ON THE WAY TO CHURCH. God gave you fingers - use 'em missy. Then i would have to say that the proverbial straw (snort) was a toss up between the way they CONTEMPORIZED Blessed Assurance. This is an old hymn folks - it is not meant to have a dance club beat for christ' sake - seriously. And then i caught it. A white sleeve went up in the choir loft. At first i thought it was a choir member who was in need of excusing herself to the loo - and then it hit me - THIS IS AN EVANGELICAL kind of Methodist church. OOOhhhh.
I get it the fact that there are some people that like that kind of worship. My parents do, my aunts and uncles - they all dig it. Me, not so much. Which is odd, because i think if you dropped my southern butt in the middle of Mississippi, in a black church with the black choir singing and swaying to "I"ll Fly Away " or the like - i would be all about it and you would have to beg me to leave. But put me around a bunch of awkward white people with no rhythm and FAKE MUSIC i'm outta there.
So, no luck today - but i'll let you know where we land. Sometimes it's more about the journey then the destination anyway.