You know how you look at old photos and notice changes in yourself, in others, and in the places you're looking at? Reposting these old church and bar visits is kind of like that for us. We visited this church in mid-December, 2014 -- and we still think their way of welcoming visitors was especially thoughtful.
Hope Chapel, Santa Rosa, California
Mindy and I started visiting churches in August, 2013, though we waited more than a year before writing about them. In other words, we didn't write about some churches we really enjoyed -- churches that really impressed us. On the flip side, there are churches that had borderline heresy (or just off-key worship teams), and it's just as well we didn't have to mention them.
I don't mean to be snide about this, but a sure sign of God's grace and provision is the good health of the Foursquare Church, considering its almost soap-opera-ish origins. The denomination was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, arguably the most popular evangelist of the 1920s. She was also at the heart of a number of scandals, including a disputed kidnapping and multiple marriages. (Henry VIII and the start of the Anglican Church gives McPherson a run for the money, but...) Today, though, it's a healthy denomination with 8 million members in 60,000 churches in 144 countries -- including Fiji.
Hope Chapel, Santa Rosa meets in what looks a bit like a barn in a beautiful setting. The interior is small but comfy. Through an internet mishap (I could swear I read 9:30 am, but no, everything online actually says 9:00 am) we arrived late. I thought they had started the service five minutes early, which would have been quite a first for a church. I thought we walked in during the opening prayer, but it was a mid-service pastoral prayer. We were surprised that there were announcements and then a sermon, without music. A look at the bulletin revealed our mistake.
With fewer people, a worship service often feels intimate, sometimes more contemplative. With more people, a worship service often feels more energetic and exciting. And that's with only one change -- the number of people. There are so many variables that can change Sunday to Sunday, so our finger to the calendar means our experience isn't exactly authoritative. Doesn’t mean it’s not interesting, though.
For those keeping score at home, the Foursquare Gospel churches in Sonoma County received an impressive 4 for 4 in our visits for encouraging worship experiences.
Our Rough Count: First service -- 50 people
*in 2017, we were able to talk with Mark and Lynn Williams about one of the ways Hope Chapel Healdsburg was able to serve their community. You can read about it here.