Easter: A Time for Church Shopping?

8 Apr

There’s an old pastor’s joke that goes something like this: A pastor is greeting congregants after a Sunday service, and one man says to him, “You know, Pastor, I really like coming here, but you only ever preach about two things: Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death.”

I’m starting to become that joke. My regular attendance at church has a lot of ebbs and flows, and right now it’s really ebbing. There are many reasons for this, but one is because I haven’t quite found the church for me in Massachusetts. The one I started going to after we moved here ended up merging with another, and although the new church is fine, it’s what I call a “Power Point church”: It has a screen at the front where they project various things throughout the service. No need for a bulletin if you didn’t get one–you can just keep your eyes on the screen. I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to church, and I like a nice high service: Music, three hymns, some responsive readings, scriptures, a sermon and an offering. No screens. No contemporary service (which I refer to as a “drum set church” that is “clappy hands” — though if I went to a church with a gospel choir, I would expect clappy hands and potentially a drum set as well. I’m really talking about your average megachurch contemporary worship stuff).

The Power Point was a big turnoff–I don’t go to church to look at a screen–so my attendance floundered. I also couldn’t participate in the bell choir due to scheduling issues, so I just stopped going. Now that we’ve moved, it takes a little effort to get to that church, and I’m contemplating whether I want to keep going there or look elsewhere.

For Easter, I decided to look elsewhere. Of course, Easter is the biggest day of the Christian year, so churches usually go all out with flowers and tons of special music (think brass instruments, the “Hallelujah Chorus” and a postlude that should be Widor’s “Toccata”). Trying a church out on Easter is kind of like a fancy first date where everyone is dressed nicely and on their best behavior. You can easily be impressed, but when you go back the following week and everything’s back to normal (and the pastor is talking about something other than the resurrection), you see what things are really like.

That’s probably not a bad thing, unless your Easter experience is not so great to begin with. I opted to try a church in a smaller town which wasn’t that far away. Put on some Sunday best, hopped in the car, got there just on time, and when I walked in, wouldn’t you know it–not one screen, but two. This did not bode well.

Whoever put together the slide deck for this service was really into it. Bible verses included illustrations. The slide announcing the offering had a drawing of a check made out to the church (for $20) and reminded us that the church is upheld by our presence, our prayers, our GIFTS, and our service.

The pastor also used the screen to show a few slides with pictures of tombs in Jerusalem to help illustrate how big tombs then were and how hard it would be for one person to roll the stone away from Jesus’ grave. All right, that was kind of interesting, though I spent more time looking at the screen than listening to the words.

All in all, the screens depressed me. One reason I like going to church is to have that hour of quiet contemplation, and screens tend to rob me of that, drawing away my focus from what’s actually happening. But that’s just one facet of this service–more to come tomorrow.

What do you think?

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