Rev. Christy Thomas: Internal alarms ring out during service at church

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This Mystery Worship brought me to the Chiltern Church. I chose it because I could walk there. It was located in the middle of a residential area and looked like the houses surrounding it.

It was an uncomfortable service for me, but I don’t know exactly why.

I arrived early and the greeter offered me a Bible along with printed announcements but no bulletin or order of worship. The comfortable worship space, set with moveable chairs, could hold 120 people. No hymnals, screen placed high with good sight lines.

I sat near the back so I could take notes unobtrusively. One person introduced herself, with much conversation taking place around me.

At 10:47 a.m., the worship leader, Barry, offered a cheery “Good morning!” He made several announcements and invited us to stand. The worship center, then about half full, soon filled to 80 percent.

A worship team with a unbalanced sound led the singing. Words to songs displayed well on the screen — fine when I knew the tune, but problematic when I didn’t.

After the first song, Barry seated everyone and launched into a long object lesson using an arrow in a bottle to indicate how God leads when we make God first.

After another song, the smaller children left. Two more unfamiliar songs (to me) later, the youth were dismissed for their separate time.

Barry then began a lengthy explanation of the purpose and meaning of prayer and told us we should pray aloud or silently for the next five to 10 minutes. A few prayed aloud, one at a time. Barry closed with prayer.

One more song, during which the offering was taken and the bags brought forward and handed, almost surreptitiously, to Barry who then seated us and gave us a page number in our Bibles. He read, quite exquisitely, Matthew 4:1-10, the story of the temptation of Jesus.

At 11:25 a.m., the minister, Dave, walked forward and stepped up on the platform. He spent the next 10 minutes talking about honoring someone who had been a longtime servant of the church but was leaving his ministry responsibility.

All utterly incomprehensible to me and highly disconnecting.

When he began the message, the screen displayed a sinister black and white photo of a blurred man holding out a large, clearly defined apple.

The word “Enemies” was in a large font to the right of the image. The words “Passion,” “Position” and “Possessions” appeared in conjunction with the pastor’s explanations that these three are our enemies and must be resisted as Jesus resisted them in his temptation.

The message seemed to be well delivered, but lacked depth and good preparation time. Lots of illustrations, but I never could quite figure out what he hoped would be the response.

He finished at 11:55 a.m. and Barry stepped up again to lead us in “Be Thou my Vision” with multiple stanzas I’ve not heard before. We were dismissed and invited to stay for coffee. I thought it was time to go, but suddenly, everyone sat down.

Dave came strolling down the center aisle. Then people just turned to each other and began to talk, staying seated. I presume coffee was being served, but I really don’t know.

A Pakistani woman next to me introduced herself and we chatted for several minutes. I asked why people didn’t get up at this point and get their tea or coffee, and she seemed confused at the question.

I decided to skip the coffee hour and headed out, where I had a brief chat with the minister at the door.

Would I go back? No. Something was just wrong there. Despite general friendliness and a pretty packed worship center, my internal alarms went off. There seemed to be a deep resistance to the message and to the pastor. An uncomfortable experience for me.

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 christy@krumumc.org .

 


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