Off to SF we go.

Yesterday morning I suckered my ‘rents and my bro into driving up to San Francisco with me to scope out Mission Bay Community Church (I billed it as an “excellent family bonding opportunity” in “sunny SF,” which was incidentally far enough away from the Santa Cruz fires that the air didn’t smell like a campfire or make one’s eyes tear up).

 

So we piled in the car around 9:45 and chugged up the 101 (yes, I went to undergrad in SoCal and YES I picked up and have held onto that nasty habit of adding an article to freeway numbers).  We got there early, or at least got off the freeway early… only we had a bit of trouble at first finding the church.  Actually, what happened was that we blew past the church altogether, missing the sign which was shaded by some trees on the side of an industrial looking building.  I should have known better than to look for something blatantly “churchy” but obviously not.  Anyways, my dad spotted the sign, we snagged a parking space and skipped on in (at least I did) in time with the sound system with 5 minutes to spare.  

 

The church was pretty neat, in terms of aesthetics.  BRC and Co. have created an awesome atmosphere that feels instantly welcoming (which was precisely what my dad pointed out when we sat down).  There were big couches interspersed with pews and folding chairs, some of which were organized around cafe tables.  There was an open kitchen in the back with coffee, tea, and donuts, and the mostly 20-30 something crowd was clustered about throughout the space engaged in conversation with one another.  It felt almost like a friendly, industrial coffee shop.  We snagged a table and some coffee and chatted with some of the people around us, who were also quite friendly.

 

Worship itself was, as I heard BRC say before, not all that different and yet different all at once.  There was a definite emphasis on music, which was a good mix of old and new led by a worship band, and a definite lack of emphasis on individualism or anything that moved people away from the communal aspect… so there were no hymnals to stare at or bulletins to get lost in, and everything was projected on the front on a screen.  Again, my dad seemed to like that a lot.  I felt as though, if you were looking for community, it was pretty hard to miss it there (gawd I sound like an ego-booster for BRC right now, I bet.).  Overall, the coolest for me was the rationale for why they encourage people to move around or engage the service however they feel comfortable, that being that they want to celebrate and affirm that people process information in different ways, and that it is important to facilitate an atmosphere that encourages people to see church as a home and not a place that asks that people deny who they are (at least, I think I got that right…)

 

Sermon was decent, I had a question or two, but then again that was welcome in the room as well.  Generally, it was a great experience and my brother, someone who would rather do almost anything rather than go to church, gave possibly the best compliment he could: “well, it wasn’t boring, thats for sure.”

 

So way to go, MBCC.  You failed to bore my bro, and my ‘rents loved it–all in all a success in my book.  It was fun, it was interesting, it was genuine.  I look forward to hearing about how things are going as this fun and welcoming church continues to grow and discover itself.

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Church snooping

Ah, beautiful Sunday.  I am home two Sundays this time around, a true rarity, and I decided to visit a church that I have heard about in the blogo-emergo-sphere rather than my home church.  Problem is, there are so many awesome churches out here!  There’s Vintage Faith, Dan Kimball’s church which is not only emergent but is recently merged with a Presbyterian Church out in Santa Cruz, and there’s BRC’s Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco.  Then there is a host of presby churches I would love to see…. my CPM liason’s church in Santa Cruz, Stone Church in San Jose, First Pres. Palo Alto.  The list goes on.  There are just so many interesting churches, and never enough time.  But I guess it is a good sign that there ARE so many awesome churches out here in the first place.  

In the end I decided to go to Mission Bay CC, mostly because BRC is unavoidable (also awesomely fun) on the internets and because he’s running for moderator, so I wanna check it out.  So we shall see how the man does worship…. *grin*

 

Mod blogs

Over on his mod blog, BRC has responded to the fourth in a series of questions from the 2008 Commissioner’s Booklet. The question, “How will we lead?“, is an interesting question that gives a bit of insight into what is motivating BRC to run in the first place, what his vision for the church is, and how he hopes to get there. He writes:

There also seems to be a shadow side to the young clergy experience, aspects of their preparation for ministry that seem somewhat out of alignment with the greater culture from which they have come. There is a disconnect between who young clergy are culturally and the institution to which they are being called to serve. In the face of this situation, young clergy are left with few options: change, deal or leave.

Something must give.

Something must change.

I suspect it is the institution.

I read his comments and couldn’t help but recognize myself, and many of my friends, in them. Because the world we live in IS changing, and the church, at is best, is an institution that should be able to respond to and in culture, not against it. The early church molded itself after the culture it was a part of, so that it could work within culture and so that its members could be better witnesses and missionaries to the people amongst whom they lived and worked. Paul writes in Corinthians:

To the Jews I have made myself as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those who live under the law I have come as one under the law, in order to win those who are under the law — not that I myself am under the law. To those who live without the law I have come as one without the law, in order to win those who are without the law — not that I am really under no law in relation to God, for I am bound by the law of Christ. To those who are weak I have made myself weak, so as to win the weak; in fact, I have become all things to all people, in order that, one way or another, I may rescue some of them. But I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share its blessings with others. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

my point, I suppose, is that the “change” that BRC proposes is the sort of active responsiveness to our world which we are called to live out in our lives and in our churches. I read BRC’s answers and I see a biblical and a timely call to the church to take a look at itself and ask some hard questions–are we offering something people need? Are we being faithful witnesses? What are we afraid of? What sorts of changes might this culture require of us? Do we have it in us?
Kudos to BRC for acknowledging and putting that right out there. It’s what I needed to hear, as a seminarian who struggles daily with my call in this institution.