Posts Tagged ‘ mega-churches ’

Club, or Church?

You might recall from my last posting that I was recently introduced to a local “mega-church.”  (Well, more to the parking lot of one.)

As we approached the mega-church building, because my wife had discovered an inside play area for toddlers, I wondered where the church was.  We parked, got the Twins out of the car, into their double-wide and walked through the front door.  At least, I guessed it was the front door because it reminded me of the front door of many hotels I have stayed in.

Immediately inside the door, I was confronted by a very long (half-a-football field?) hallway that was fully three stories to the ceiling (if not four).  Now, I’m feeling like I’m in a mall.

Still, the nagging question: where’s the church?  Or, more specifically, the sanctuary?

We walked past a bank of stations – computer monitors and keyboards.  We walked past a coffee bar.  We got to the play area.  Still, no clue at all where the sanctuary, if any, might be.

The Twins got bored in about an hour, so I tried to buy some time by letting them run the hallway.  Of course, that wasn’t interesting, and they quickly found a side hallway.  This apparently had classrooms lining both sides.  That too, was boring, so we packed up and left.  (I shared my parking lot experience in the previous post.)  We got home and un-packed ….

I never figured out where the sanctuary was, but now I didn’t care.  What I was hung up on was why.  Why was that church so much different from what I am used to?

Gradually, over the course of the day, it occurred to me:

The Catholic religion is all about worship.  We go to Mass (or, “Sunday service,” if you prefer) to worship.  At least most still do.  A growing number go for another reason; the same reason I suspect that there are such things as “mega-churches”: the social aspect.  There are bars and coffee shops and mega-churches.

I have “observed” (complained, more like it) in these pages about the pew-sitters who treat the sanctuary like a bus station (which is not a nice thing to say about bus stations).  I suppose, if I sat in the front pew, I wouldn’t notice those that think it their mission to regale everyone within ear shot with their opinion of some sports event, or restaurant experience; or those that come in late and leave early.

I’ve always felt that church sanctuaries (any denomination) were places that were supposed to be different from the “outside” world.  More like a library than a sports stadium.  One of the things I have loved about being a tourist during business trips around the world is walking into an empty church that was also quiet; that not only allowed, but encouraged prayer and meditation.  No hustle, no bustle.  If nothing else, a retreat, however momentary.  Sanctuaries that looked like a church and not a movie theater.

And, having been an altar boy in the world before Vatican 2, I prefer a Mass where everyone was quiet, if not reverent.  Where, if you needed a place to collect your thoughts, you could walk in and sit down and find some peace – either just before or just after Mass, or, indeed almost any time during the week.

That seems to be pure fiction these days.  Imagine, changing your behavior to fit the circumstances!  You know: “use your inside voice.”

The parish I belong to now, and the one immediately prior both sported buildings that are fairly modern.  In fact, the church I grew up in was cut from the same cloth.  (Full disclosure: two parishes ago, I lived in Rome – ‘nuf said.)

It’s funny how much I hate to rely on “Christian” to describe who I am, because there are so many flavors of “Christian,” that if I didn’t know better, I’d say the term described precisely nothing.  The same seems to be true of buildings where people meet: some are called churches, but how they differ from a mall, or a movie theater, I don’t know.

There are a lot of hymns that I got introduced to and learned to love while I was attending a Disciples of Christ Church, years ago.  Quite a few of those I prefer to most of the so-called “Catholic hymns” that have been inflicted on us.  One of those “Protestant” hymns that I know only vaguely is “(Give me that) old time religion.”  Somehow, I don’t think the meaning is intended to be “pre-Luther/Calvin”; though I am thankful that my religion places its emphasis on GOD and not man.