From May through July, I shall use part of my sabbatical to visit various churches and record my experiences there.
My first venture was to Apostles Church (www.apostlesnyc.com) on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. This choice was easy, as both my NYC sons and families attend there. They willingly agreed with my walking in alone so I would be noticed as a first-time visitor.
A 15-minute stroll from the west side of Central Park to the east side brought us to 85th Street and a private high school, with a sandwich sign announcing that a church met within.
It was 10:34 a.m. and I followed the music to the auditorium. A young greeter at the door ignored me, but I received a tiny information/attendance card from someone else and seated myself.
An excellent, large worship team of musicians and vocalists played contemporary Christian music on the stage. A screen to the left of the stage was not high enough for me to see easily.
The room gradually filled. A worship leader welcomed us and beautifully read a Scripture.
At 10:45 a.m., we sang again. Amid the primarily white, young group, I was clearly the oldest by at least 20 years. Seeing the younger people was wonderful, and probably the reason that I had been pretty invisible. I needed to sit down, but sitting meant no hope at all of seeing the screen.
At 10:54, the pastor introduced himself and the sermon series on the attributes of God. The major theme was “The Search for Transcendence.” He reminded us that most are practical atheists, with inadequate views of God, and often reject the god we’ve made up in our minds without ever having taken the time to explore the transcendent God.
The pastor took us through multiple Scriptures in this overview of the series. In a well-prepared and well-delivered message, he offered excellent examples of the difference between knowing about something and actually knowing something intimately, firsthand.
Although many of the Scriptures he used were on the screen, the poor sightlines continually challenged me to stay on track.
After the final prayer, communion was served. There were no words of institution or consecration or indication of who might receive, just a general invitation to go receive at one of the serving stations (including a gluten-free station) around the room.
After communion, offering baskets were passed. I realized that this was where I should have placed my attendance card, but I hadn’t filled it out.
The service was ended about noon by a worship leader. The noise level shifted to a new high as people began lively conversations. However, no one introduced themselves to me.
I wandered to the back entrance, shook hands with the pastor, who thanked me for coming, and stood in the lobby alone watching the action. Eventually, a nice young woman came to offer words of welcome and history of the church.
Back in the auditorium, I saw children racing around. The kids’ area was on the third floor of the building, where I did not go. I saw that each child had a sticker on his or her back indicating name, parent, contact, etc. Those still in diapers also had a bright red “I’ve been changed” sticker on top.
I joined in conversation with my sons, mentioned the problems with the sightlines and noted my relative invisibility as an older person, which didn’t seem to shock them.
So, I ask this question: Would I go back there? Yes, with an invitation from someone I knew. Otherwise, no. The worship was good, the sermon and music excellent, but I am not the demographic they seek, and that is OK. They are excelling in their mission, and I do best to support that from afar. I’m very grateful I was there.
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .