[church visit] …He remembered me…

…Imagine this…

Imagine that you are in love… and you tell them so.

Imagine the place where you told them and they return your love. They propose and you start to live your lives together.

Imagine that their family would rather that you were not there and let you know that and after many years, you leave.

Then, after many more years you run into them and they invite you to where ever they are now. They want to start over. You are doubtful, but they are persistent, so you go and you are happy.

But you have your doubts. And you tell them so.

So one day they call you and say “Meet me 2 and a half hours from where you currently live at a place you were at only once before and that was because you were lost on the way to the RenFaire”

I said ok…

I listened to His call. And I ended up here:

The door to the Brenham Education Building

Where is here? I’ll get to that… but first a story. That’s on the next page…

tra-di-tiiiiiiiiooooon, tra-DI-tion!!

For the past year, all of my church visits have been to either non-dom or emerging denominational churches, where the King is King and style is everywhere. Great sets,  good music by worships rockers with tats and gauges and drummers in plexi cages. Closed eyes and raised hands swaying to the music. Titantrons with flashy videos and (LOUD!!) MUSIC BLASTING… IT’S A GOOD THING THAT THEY OFFERED EARPLUGS AT THE DOOR ALONG THE BULLITIN!! (WAH?). I wanted experiences that were unlike anything that I was raised with or was used to. I wanted to new sexy churchy hotness; leave the liturgies and humming and kneeling and the robes for Grandmas and the Tea Party folks – I want my Pastor to have ripped jeans and one of those nudie Britney Spears headset mikes! (Amen and AAAAAmen!)

Really!! …and not really…

The services at the [cult]Church were simple and straightforward:

Step 1: Stand up and sing

Step 2: Prayer

Step 3: The first part of the service

Step 4: Stand up and sing second song

Step 5: The Second part of the service

Step 6: Stand up and sing final song (by this time I am ready to G-O jet)

Step 7: Closing Prayer

Step 8: Go to Hot Sauce Williams


Simple. Predictable. Boring.  And it happened twice a week every week for 18 years.  It was comforting in its mind-numbing routine-yness, a church normalcy that was the cure for ‘worldly’ behavior and temptations that one would find during the week. It was safe, it provided an identity, I always had the security of knowing what was coming and how it would make me feel which it did every single time.

We run to tradition when we don’t want to think about the technical (that is to say the how to and the what for) of worship.  There is no need to worry about being relevant to “seeker friendly” environment, the traditions have been in place for longer than our country has… we know what we are asking for  and what we’re gonna get when we walk in. And when we walk in we take our portion of Christian Blessing, take communion, say Amen and leave.

And there is beauty in that and it was something I missed. Say what you want about tradition, but that’s the very thing that tells us who we are and what Abba wants us to do. And frankly, I don’t know either of those things.

So I needed to find a denominational, traditional service with a liturgy and communion, if available.  

And it so happened that I knew exactly where to find one…







Storytelling, John the Beloved and Full Makeup…

coming through... the last thing you want to see before your morning tea...

Sunday the 7th of August had me going to Shoreline Church for a special theatrical performance by Jim Miles preforming John the Apostle. I am a HUGE fan of storytelling, especially when there’s full makeup and a Bible story, so I was absent from the Hill yet again. They don’t even bother staying up anymore. This saddens me a little.

Shoreline was the first megachurch I had heard of here in Austin, mainly because it was right around the corner from where I living when I first moved here and secondly because you couldn’t pass a car without one of their bumper stickers on it (which is only slightly better than the little white apples or My child is an Honor Student at [that school]).

Located North near the Howard Lane / Wells Branch area, Shoreline features a nursery, a school, a sanctuary that seats about a thousand easily, a coffee shop that feature Starbucks (the Green tea Chai was just the thing I wanted to see early Sunday morning), a book store with a full array of books, videos and CD’s from the pastoral and worship staff, and a children’s area with a ship coming out of the wall (which was the last thing I was prepared to see first thing Sunday morning before my tea)

This church is also different in that I wasn’t the only black person there… this was a multicultural church and it showed all through… from the blonde wearing the sari to the near gospel worship, to the female Hispanic Associate Pastor from the south campus who came for the service. Even for the size, the fact that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ gave me comfort. It was still huge, though.

Jim Miles, an actor and storyteller, then appeared on the stage as John the Beloved, sitting at his desk on the island Patmos, greeting the thousands to come to see him.

“You know you’re an old man when a thousand people can sneak up on you…” it was met with a laugh and then to the story of the Gospel from a good source…

“Because I was there”

And for a moment, just after the Justin Bieber joke (don’t ask), I believed him and he took me there with him, as good theater should.

It took me back to one of things I missed about the [cult]Church. Every year we would trek to the District Convention, where one looks mainly to find a mate, perhaps get baptized and/or listen to sermons for 8 hours a day for three days. The highlight, other than baptism on Sat morning(because you were something if you got baptized at the District Convention),  was the Drama on Sunday afternoon.

A full makeup production, it told a story of a Witness in a modern day dilemma that reflected a bible principle (‘good association’, ‘moral cleanliness’ and the like). Then the bass toned narrator would chime in and intro the Bible story that illustrated the point of how we as Witnesses should act. It was heavy handed, but it was designed to be that way and I enjoyed it because it was a story, like the Bible.

And as everyone knows, I am a sucker for a good story.







Live Oak

When I walked into the theater, It was like walking that surreal portion of my imagination, where churches were smack in the middle of where people were. Not secular, mind you…. Not the McWord of God where you can have it your way, but the Word and the Truth where it was accessible.

Like a movie theater.

Inside, there was everything you would imagine in a modern church. The screen was there waiting for worship to start, the instruments and mikes were there for worship, and worship music was the going through the speakers getting us ready for the service. People were milling around and more than one person introduced themselves.

The worship started and I started to sing ( I should stop here to remind you that even though this was in a movie theater, it was first and foremost a Presbyterian Church. This means that if they sing at all it is very, very quiet.) I got more than a few looks, the most embarrassing one from the gal who was actually singing. I don’t believe that she was mad that I was singing in as much as she was surprised that I was singing over a whisper.

With worship over, the tithe and offering was collected, lead by a female pastor, Chesney Szaniszlo. This is big for me for a reason that I will cover at another time.

Then there was the sermon. The pocket-sized pastor, Caz Minter (swear to you that I could have walked off with him in my purse, but I would’ve had to remove the Austin Stone folks from last week first) was engaging, humorous and drew you in. The sermon, part of a series on prayer, interactive and involved among other things, putting our desires and worries into a stone and casting it into water. It was pointed out later on that this was not a typical service. It figures I would show up on play date time.

After service, I assisted in tear down and the on to Rose’s Tortilla factory for fellowship.

I enjoyed it and would return. As the second denominational church I have attended during my search, it helped me reconsider what I am thinking about them (‘run away’) and that is a good sign.