Week 6: Life Center Foursquare Church, 10 February 2008

Life Center Foursquare Church is a “mega church” on Spokane’s west side. We attended the third (evening) service Sunday evening. The pastor guesstimated there were 1200 in attendance. The worship team/rock band consisted of 8 members: three singers, two guitarists, a pianist, a bass player, and a drummer. The congregation was demographically young, and Michael guessed that close to 50% of the people were under 30–lots of teens and 20-somethings. I don’t know if the earlier services draw older folks or not, and the parking lot was particularly treacherous as Spokane went into full meltdown this week, with cold clear nights that portend black ice all around.

The bulletin again gave very little information with regard to the order of the service. The lyrics to the songs, name of the pastor, and the major points in his sermon were beamed onto two large screens on either side of the stage, where 2-4 cameras broadcast the whole service, which was nice, because in such a large auditorium, it’s difficult to see the stage clearly from the back. Following 30 minutes of praise music, the drama team presented a moving sketch on the importance of small groups (called Life Groups), pastor Joe Wittwer gave a sermon about Life Groups, their mission and ministry in the context of such a large church, and invited those present to join or begin one. The bulletin included an insert that detailed the major points of his sermon and an insert form for joining a Life Group.

He concluded the sermon by announcing that we would have communion that week. The ushers started passing out communion, and he bade us to hold on to it, join with 2-4 people next to us, share with each other a prayer request, and then take communion together, after which we were dismissed. We were with our friends the Baldwinis*, and did okay until we were done with the prayer requests and praying, at which point Mrs. Baldwini* said, “Bottoms Up” and downed the communion grape juice served in the tiny shot glass.

The last time someone said similarly strange words of institution to me was at an Emmaus gathering in Maryland when Michael and I were first together. Instead of handing me bread and saying something like, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven,” he said, “Any friend of Mike’s is a friend of ours.”

Farmer girl’s dad keeps pushing on me to write what I think about the service, what I’ve learned in about the broader body, what I feel about the process. He says most of my service recollections are boring. He’s right. I think I have two, maybe three, reflections on this service.

The first is that, initially, when we left, I thought, “I could go back there again.” But on further reflection, I think what I really liked was the content of this particular sermon, and not particularly the mode of transmission, the really large congregation, the music, or the rest of the service. I think the message on the importance of community was particularly compelling because I think having a sense of community is always important to one’s life in the church. Then again, that’s wholly untrue of my own religious experience, where I spent a very happy year attending a Reform Synagogue, and never establishing even an acquaintanceship. In most of the churches I look back at, what I miss are the people. What I miss from that Synagogue is the service and the rabbi. I don’t remember his name, though.

The second reflection I have on the service is that I despise standing there for 30 minutes, singing contemporary praise music. Even the few songs I like, I come to quickly despise if the leaders sing them over and over and over. The priest we had in Raleigh liked to have the worship team sing a song several times (I think twice is my threshold), and then he’s say, “Sing it prayerfully,” which meant slower, with fewer instruments. This never worked for me, because by the time he got to that, I was already sick of the song, and the closest to “prayerful” I ever got was praying that the song would be over soon.

I’m not one of those people who hates contemporary praise music and loves hymns. The last two priests we had some really close to that, which I felt was strange, because the one is quite comfortable and a good singer, while the other is tone deaf. I don’t say that lightly. I’m not a particularly good singer, and rarely throw stones in this area . . . but the guy can’t sing. But both of them cling somewhat tenaciously to the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal, which contains some real dogs. Sadly, the hymn writers also seemed to have thought they could improve on Wesley, and tinkered with many of the great hymns that, in other hymnals, are quite lovely and singable. Sadly, I’m an equal opportunity song hater. I can despise a piece regardless of how old or new it is.

The third point of reflection I have on this service will be entered into the questions page. What’s the point of communion? In this service, it seemed wholly unnecessary–we could have just as easily shared prayer requests, prayed together, and left, as we did share prayer requests, pray, down the Welches and go. There’s a disconnect there. I guess this will also end up another letter, so look for me to bug the Foursquare guy in the letters section.

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This is the original Space Holding Note, written before the Weekly Report:

If you’re here looking for the new report, it’s going to be a little late. Last week, Michael stipulated that we either needed to go liturgical or really big this week, since he didn’t want to be the focus of a small church again this week. Last night, we went to see Todd Snider at The Theatre Formerly Known as the Met, which around here is often called “The Bing,” giving it a Sopranos Bada-Bingish air. We didn’t buy the T-shirt, but we did get the album that includes Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican Straight White American Males, which I think will become my friend Elaine’s favourite song when we play it for her upon her return from Hawaii.

The service is tonight at 6pm, and I don’t expect we’ll be home until 10pm. I expect to post the report by noon Monday.

* not their real name

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3 Responses to Week 6: Life Center Foursquare Church, 10 February 2008

  1. Pingback: 52 Churches » Blog Archive » Week 20: Kaleo, Otis Orchards, 18 May 2008

  2. Pingback: 52 Churches » Blog Archive » Week 21: Real Life Ministries, 25 May 2008

  3. Pingback: 52 Churches » Blog Archive » Week 17: Community of St. Ann’s, 27 April 2008

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