As someone who always moved around, I really wanted to put down roots. My beloved still has friends from kindergarten. I envy this. After the really fun wedding ( in spite of the pastor) we moved to a small town where we live now because I took a job with a lawfirm that had a satellite office there. We both decided to look for a church. In spite of all of the fun we had with the Presbyterian church recently, I looked for a Presby church. Someone at work recommended his. Now, I grew up in the traditional Scot-Irish church. And the "Church of the Really Big Deal" looked like someone had dropped it right out of Scotland. Big, stone, traditional. Heavy wood pews and stained glass windows from London. We had no pew cushions because you are not there to get comfortable. We took sermon notes. The pastor he could wear a white shirt under his black robe-only option. Solid color tie, navy or black. No questions. We did not care if you offered the most inspirational music this side of heaven, there will be no clapping. We fired a minister of music because he played too loud- it just wasn't right. We once had a youth choir exchange with a church fro Iowa. We went there and sang a joint choral piece. At the end, everyone was moved to applause- we were stunned. Then the worst thing happened- they came to our church and brought everyone to the big city. We sang. The Iowans started clapping excitedly. Our churchmembers were caught in a Hobson's choice- sin for clapping or be rude and not clap. They decided reluctantly to clap. It sounded like microwave popcorn. In spite of all of these observations, worship was great. Real stem-winding sermons by pastors who went to Scotland for seminary. Choirs for every age, bell choirs with Whitechapel bells- the best money could buy. The most inspirational Lessons and Carols services ever. Tenebrae services in Lent were mystical in the large vaulted nave with just candles flickering. Communion elements distributed with precision, ushers making sure the unconfirmed did not take any.
Everything happened in order. And for the time from 5th grade until I married, this was the model I saw when I thought of worship.
In spite of the seriousness with which worship was treated on Sunday mornings, we had an outstanding youth program that was truly intergenerational for elementary through the end of high school. This was where you really got to know people and see that for the most part, we all were in this together. And although it was very organized it was your time to have fun in learning about faith.
So, anyway, we go to the "recommended" church and the minister is in a suit with a turquoise tie, and he just looks like he should be on a televangelism show. No robe, no pulpit, walking around with a microphone sharing. He looked so tan and perfect. And everyone there was just so..perfect. Lots of Volvos in the parking lot and yuppie superficial smiling. I felt like we might be in the wrong tax bracket and I know our used Toyota looked a little forlorn in the parking lot.
The church was more modern looking and the sanctuary had folding chairs. OK, but people had staked out their chairs like you would at a concert. As pulled together as the "Church of the Really Big Deal" had been, evangelism had been a strength and even when I was the new kid from Tennessee I never felt looked down upon or like a was someone's new service project. In one impression my beloved and I exchanged looks about the likelihood we were in the right demographic.
It was mission Sunday. They had a prison ministry person who gave a riveting program and then and there encouraged people to volunteer their time. Deathly silence. Then he said monetary contributions were welcome. Audible sigh of relief as checkbooks began whipping out. Wouldn't really want to get to close to the prison population.
The choir director wanted to offer her personal testimony before they sang the anthem. Lots of feeling really good about themselves but no one seemed to want to expand the circle. It just felt wrong to us. There were not other Presby options nearby.