Sunday, May 28, 2006

Curious Pilgrim: On the Road

It was a difficult choice this week, and had my car not been taken from me unexpectedly I may have attended multiple services (providence? It was a wake-up call in the harshest sense of the term--asleep at the wheel--and I was fortunate to come out of it with little more than a cut inside my mouth) There are places here in Eureka, California that I've always been curious about.

After scanning the many possiblilities in the phonebook and listed online I had narrowed my focus to a handful of Pentecostal churches and Faith Center, because I was recently encouraged to include a Foursquare community in my journeys. I was eager to check out Gospel Outreach, which as I discovered arose here in the late seventies and has now reached out and staked claim into countries across the globe. Apparently they border on the cultish--Mandy told me as much. There is also Full Gospel Tabernacle just down the street, which is a United Penecostal congregation--on a side note, I hoped to attend an additional service there this morning, so I approached the building and just inside the doors was caught with a tractor beam of hospitality that almost overwhelmed me. That minor taste--peppered by learning that all the women and girls must wear skirts and the Spirit does in fact descend on Sunday worship--has piqued my desire to seek out some speaking-in-tongues back up in Seattle.

Per your encouragement, I chose Faith Center. It's what everbody's doing, right? Families leaving Sacred Heart and Catholicism for the simple comforts of Christ the savior, baptiser, healer and king. It's a welcoming institution from the first step into the door. I was greeted by a handful of staffers, given a pamphlet and led inside (much the same as Mars Hill, though with more attention). I was directed to a pew, greeted by various neighbors and compelled to join the rousing but overtly religious singing taking place (as opposed to layered within alternative rock). It wasn't until the sermon began that a feeling of difference came down upon me.

Once again, I'm perplexed by this practice of teaching and absorption. The crowd at a Foursquare church, or maybe just an Evangelical one in that particular vein, listens without dissent to things that I'm sure many would dispute if they took a minute to consider them. I wish I knew more of their reactions/opinions. Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe part of the appeal of this setup is the lack of analysis and dialogue. Maybe the passive way is the preferred way for these people.

I felt like I was on a televangilical set. The clothes matched, the decor matched, even the delivery of the pastor matched. What I appreciated most was his fervent, reaching-into-your-heart-and-pulling-it-out emotion. Here was a man who fully believed in his words. He made me want to pause the service and say to him, "You know, it's really not that bad. We'll be OK. You'll be OK. If you believe, God will provide for you."

I was encouraged to accept Jesus as my personal savior, but was a conscientious objector. I was told of so many things that I do, or don't do. My human nature seems to be much stronger than any individuality I might exhibit. But what it all comes down to is that the devil's on my tail. I didn't get to see any of that first hand, but I trust that at some point he'll make an appearance. The thing about a Foresquare church service like the Faith Center's is that you do whatever you are going to do internally--prayers, proclamations, deliberations. If you feel so inclined, you can approach someone about it afterward.

But why? Here's an enigma that I can see will figure into my further adventures: what compells people to embrace a religion that doesn't involve participation? Accept Christ, and you're set! Is it the ease? The security? The clarity? I look to the pilgrimage ahead.

I'll be back in Seattle tomorrow; farefwell Faith Center and all the other churches I've yet to experience here in quaint little Eureka. Keep up the good fight.


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