After a nice long hiatus, I’m back! And I’m still doubting.
The church I went to this morning was, as usual, within walking distance of my home. So close, in fact, that it’s only a few blocks away, in the funky “downtown” section of Greenwood. If you’ve ever been to Seattle, you probably know that the city is a patchwork collection of neighborhoods each with their own character, some of which used to be cities in their own right before being absorbed. Most of these neighborhoods have a “downtown” area.
Downtown Greenwood is filled with shops, apartments, offices, restaurants and way more coffee shops than you’d think one neighborhood could handle. But this is Seattle, after all, and coffee is kind of what we do here.
This particular church owns its own coffee shop, a non-profit called The Green Bean, which has been in the neighborhood in one place or another for about four or five years. And while they own a coffee shop, this church doesn’t own a church. They meet in a local theater, the Taproot.
Well, it’s been a few weeks, I’ve been enjoying my summer, and a little break from posting on the blog, but now I’m back at it.
Yesterday morning, my girlfriend and I went up to Shoreline, just north of Seattle, to visit a Catholic church. I’ve already done a Catholic church, but that one was only a Thursday morning mass, not the full show, and so I’ve been wanting to go to another Catholic church for a while. This one is near a friend’s house, and we were invited up to breakfast after the service, and so it was a good excuse to make the trip. Not that the trip was very far. Shoreline is the city immediately north of Seattle, and we live in the northern part of the city, so it was actually fairly close.
This morning, I got up early, put on my Sunday best, and went to church.
Last week, I had a little trouble because I was improperly dressed. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, this morning I put on some nice slacks, a nice button-down shirt, and a tweed jacket. I didn’t put on a tie, nor did I put on my dress shoes, opting for black sneakers instead. So I guess my manner of dress would be somewhere between “business” and “business casual.”
Turns out putting the sneakers on was a good idea. Not only because I walked a little over a mile to the church, but also because you don’t sit down during an orthodox service. You stand.
Like last time, I went to the front door, and like last time, it was locked. I guess they’re not used to people walking up to their front door. The back door, which opens off of their parking lot and into a common area with a kitchen and tables, was open. There was a lady there pulling stuff out of her car, and I stopped to help, grabbing a box of cups and bringing it into the kitchen for her.
My morning began a little too early. I had friends over last night, and I’m afraid there was both whiskey and beer involved, and this fact made my six hours of sleep a little less productive than I might otherwise like. I managed to crawl out of bed and into a large french press full of coffee, which helped my mood considerably, but I was hardly at my best. I needed a shave, I probably needed a shower, but mostly I needed the proper attitude to care about these two things.
I threw on some clothes, and started on the 1.1 mile walk to the Orthodox church. The walk turned out to be very therapeutic, and after a while I began to feel a lot better. On the way there, since I was very early, I walked through the Oak Tree Shopping Center, where the Epic Life Church meets in a theater. Even though it was more than three hours before their services started, the theater doors were unlocked, and there was activity within.
I was improperly attired. I guess if you dress like Jesus, in sandals, they get rather cross.
I’ll give them or some other Orthodox church another try in a future week. And I will dress better.
I do intend to go to another church that’s nearby later this morning.
I can’t properly review a Catholic communion because I’m not a believer, and if I did take communion, it would really irritate the Catholics. More than irritate them, it would be a violation of holy law, so it would likely deeply offend them.
Now, I don’t mind irritating people, or even offending them, but only when they deserve it. They don’t deserve it, so unless and until I start believing in saints, I’m never going to taste Catholic Jesus.
Fortunately, there’s a solution at hand. A nice Catholic named Tarah has sent me a review! And I can pass it on to you. Here it is:
Catholic Jesus doesn’t taste that great. It’s a whole wheat wafer. The wine isn’t that tasty either; it’s box Gallo, probably. Go eat a Carr’s water cracker and some Franzia that’s been sitting out for an hour. I’m telling you this, because out of all the churches you were at, a Catholic church is probably the single one at which you would most hurt some feels if you eat and drink some Jesus if you aren’t Catholic. Do as you see fit; it’s not going to change the state of your soul or mine, bro. Just saying. I wouldn’t go out of your way for the culinary experience. There’s not even any brie.
The Bethany Community Church is a highly successful, well-attended, non-denominational church that’s near my home. Like Mars Hill, it’s a “rock and roll” church. It’s got a band, a big screen, and a fairly young flock. It’s hip, and it’s lively, and it makes a lot of noise.
This church wasn’t on my poll, but so many of it’s parishioners emailed me or sent me comments on the blog or via Reddit inviting me to come, I had to visit.
It’s kind of a mega church, although it’s a bit smaller than the Mars Hill church. I guess it’s a mini-mega church. Like Mars Hill, it is so successful that it has more than one sermon on Sundays, it’s pastor is charismatic, well-spoken, entertaining, funny, and he’s written a few books.
(No website link)
The first church I visited today was the Oak Lake Baptist Church in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Oak Lake doesn’t have a web site, so I can’t post a link here.
I chose to visit Oak Lake for three reasons: (1) A Baptist church ranked pretty high in my poll, (2) It’s close by my home, and (3) I thought it was a Southern Baptist church. I was wrong about (3), it’s affiliated with American Baptists, and so is a bit more liberal. I might try to find a southern Baptist church at some point and visit it, but I’m discovering that really conservative churches are a little hard to find in Seattle. That shouldn’t be a surprise, we are largely a bunch organic, recycling, car-free, Democrat, pot legalizing, body-pierced, computer nerd, hipster, same-sex marrying nude bikers, and that’s reflected in the general grooviness of our churches too.
This Sunday evening, I trekked back to Mars Hill Church to give them a second look. If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that Mars Hill was the second church I visited, and I gave them a pretty bad score. I also said some things about them that were pretty critical and not very positive.
You might also remember that I got some hate mail from them, and posted a rather strongly worded reply. I took my reply down, because I didn’t feel it added anything useful to the conversation, and it was put out there during a time when I was receiving some rather emotionally charged email, and I kind of got caught up in that. I’m a rather drama-averse person, and when I add to drama, I tend to feel that it’s a personal failure on my part.
Anyway, in all the drama, I also got some rather positive emails from the Mars Hillfolk, including several invitations to come back and give them a second look. It was asserted to me by more than one person that all the focus on money that I encountered was due to timing. I had simply showed up at a quarterly or annual point at which the church was asking for money and talking about money, and that if I showed up at a different time then the focus would be on something else.
So, I promised I’d go back.
This Sunday morning, I went to visit the University Christian Church, which is of the Disciples of Christ denomination.
I really had my wires crossed this morning. I got up a little later than I had planned, and then had a semi-panic moment when I saw the time and realized that I had to get going right now to make it to the church on time. Thing is, I wasn’t late at all. For some reason, I had it in my head that the service started at 10:00, when it actually started at 11:00.
So I rushed around like a maniac, and out the door in record time, and left the house with myself in an insufficiently caffeinated state. When I got there, a few minutes before 10:00, I wandered around until I found some people who were going in to church. But these weren’t the Disciples of Christ I was looking for. These folks were Baptists. They rent space in the church from the Disciples.