Showing posts with label Santa Rosa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Santa Rosa. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

2014 Revisited: Hope Chapel Santa Rosa

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.

Three of the congregations we most enjoyed worshiping with during that year were Foursquare Gospel Churches. It would have been fun to write about the Sanctuary in Windsor or the Lighthouse in Santa Rosa or Hope Chapel in Healdsburg (pastored by our friends, Mark and Lynn Williams*). But we get to do the next best thing -- write about Hope Chapel in Santa Rosa. Not only does it share a name with the Healdsburg church, but it's also the mother church of the Sanctuary and the Lighthouse.

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.

So after the sermon and closing song, we waited for the second service. It's kind of like when you miss the first part of a movie and you wait for the feature to start again so you can see what you missed. Being there for two services was a good reminder for us of how haphazard a one service critique can be. I believe the order of service was the same for both services, but since there were about fifty people in the first service and more than twice as many people in the second service, they felt very different.

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.

The worship team was solid with good use of harmony. At least one of the songs was, I believe, written by the worship leaders. We sang only one Christmas carol (“Angels We Have Heard on High”). We also sang the Lincoln Brewster-baptized, Christianized version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (which give us a sense of what people felt like when they heard a Lutheran hymn with a tune they recognized from the tavern).

The sermon focused on how we should live as we await the Pre-tribulation Rapture. There were many Scripture references (with which the overhead outline had a hard time keeping up with, but most were listed in the sermon notes in the bulletin). The sermon concluded with a prayer that included an invitation to salvation.

I very much enjoyed the announcements: one introducing new leadership, with an emphasis on the qualifications in I Timothy 3, followed by voting to ratify the nominated leaders. Another announcement included a video of the pastor's recent trip to Fiji for a church conference.

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.

Service Length:            1 hour 15 minutes
Sermon Length:            25 minutes
Visitor Treatment:         Chocolate bars with church information and visitor card (we felt very welcomed), general greeting to visitors during service, greeted by pastor between services
Our Rough Count:        First service -- 50 people
                                      Second service -- 110 people (definitely skewed younger, with more kids in children's program)
Probable Ushers' Count: First service -- 65 people
                                        Second service -- 85 people (same worship team, ushers, greeters)
Snacks:                            Coffee and tea outside before, after and between services
Songs:                              Spirit Baptize Me
                                         Angels We Have Heard on High
                                         After All (Holy)
                                         We Believe
                                         Another Hallelujah

  *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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Revisiting 2014: Refuge Christian Fellowship

Back in December 2014, we visited a church that bore little resemblance to the storefront church we'd been expecting. 

Refuge Christian Fellowship, Santa Rosa, California
Two things made me happy upon entering the fellowship room just before the worship service at Refuge Christian Fellowship in downtown Santa Rosa: donuts and feeling old. My positive feeling toward free donuts probably needs no more explanation, yet I will add that I got a jelly.

Why did I feel glad to feel old? Mindy and I have been to enough churches where we, in our 50s, were the young people. At Refuge the average age was somewhere in the low thirties, which was a cool thing.

Refuge is a storefront church, with one street door leading to the worship center and another leading to the children's ministry (Refuge Kids). There's definitely a warehouse feel to the worship space with high dark ceilings and blank walls, but there is a large cross in the back of the space and candles in the front. The information area is easy to find (it's on the way to the donuts and coffee) and leads directly to a shelf with books (I noticed Tim Keller) for sale. In the fellowship room, there's a library bookshelf, adding to an academic feel to the place. The church is affiliated with The Gospel Coalition.

Most people were chatting before the service, with some gathered in the fellowship room on couches, but the only person who introduced himself was the man I asked if seats were free in the row where he was sitting. Mindy met a woman when she asked about coffee mugs (ceramic mugs are stored beneath the snack table...use one you like). 

Worship songs began without much preamble. There was a good worship band, but singing along with the choruses posed a bit of a challenge. The lyrics on the wall fell behind; usually the new verse wouldn't come up until a couple of lines in. I've learned through the years that when this kind of challenge comes up, the blame rarely is on the tech person alone. Often the worship leader hasn't properly prepped the tech crew or isn't being observant of the challenges the congregation is having singing along. (Projecting lyrics on the back wall can often be a big help.) Mindy looked around and noticed that few people were actually singing on the first couple of songs.

The woman who delivered announcements was quite personable, and it was good to hear about their Christmas giving in the community. There was going to be a gift wrapping party the next week before gifts were given to the people who had asked for special help.

The sermon was the first in an Advent series on the names of the Messiah ("And His Name Shall be Called") from Isaiah 9. Today's name: Wonderful Counselor. Good content in the sermon with practical illustrations and quotes from C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and other intelligent folks with initials.

Christmas carols were sung after the sermon (they seemed to take the day as the first Sunday of Advent while most liturgical churches would consider it the second). During the songs, people went forward to receive communion -- the grape juice and crackers were on unattended tables with a modern candelabra that could have been a simple menorah. No instructions were given about communion, but we figured it out during the second song.

We agreed after the service that our grown kids might well like the church. We sure did.

Service Length: 1 hour 40 minutes
Sermon Length: 55 minutes
Visitor Treatment: No one greeted us, but people we talked to were friendly. Mindy found a prayer request card to leave our contact information. No acknowledgment of visitors was made during the service.
Our Rough Count: 105
Probable Ushers' Count: 125 (there weren't any ushers, actually, but the folks passing the offering might have made a count)
Snacks: coffee, water, hot water, donuts, muffins, maybe fruit? We mostly noticed the donuts, which were yummy
"Grace Alone"
"In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross"
"This Is My Father's World"
"O Come, O Come Emmanuel"
"What Child is This?"
"Joy to the World"

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Revisiting 2014: Redeemer Presbyterian Church Santa Rosa

Since we finished our church-and-bar adventure at the end of 2018, we're reposting posts you might have missed from the beginning of our travels. This post originally appeared December 2, 2014

Redeemer, Santa Rosa, California
It’s not uncommon these days for churches to downplay -- I’d go as far to say hide -- their denominational affiliation. Especially here in the greatly unchurched northwestern part of the United States, a denominational tag seems like more of a burden than a blessing for some churches. People around here often seem to be just trying to get a handle on the definition of what it means to be a “Christian."
Nonetheless, when Mindy googled Redeemer Presbyterian Santa Rosa and found the church's website she was rather surprised that the word “Presbyterian” was as scarce as Waldo at the site. We wondered whether this was one of those churches seeking the comfort of the generic.

It didn’t take long in our visit to discover that wasn’t the case.

First of all, their sign out front does say “Redeemer Presbyterian Church” right under the sign for “Scottish Rite Center.” (The two organizations share a building, which makes some historic sense as the Presbyterian Church roots are in the Scotland of a little over three centuries ago. Apparently, the first Scottish Rite Lodge was founded in a bar in London a little less than three centuries ago, but let's not argue about history and geography when we've found an interesting circumstantial connection.)

And it wasn’t long into the sermon on First Peter 1: 13 - 16 (“Be holy, because I am holy”) that there were several references to how “we” (the congregation) respond to things as Presbyterians. I was glad to hear the familiar joking about how though Presbyterians do things “decently and in order” there was room to be excited about God. Presbyterians like to chuckle quietly about such things.
There were also references in the sermon to “Reformed Theology,” and after the service, I talked to three different people who mentioned how they appreciate the teaching about Reformed Theology in the church. As a seminary grad I’m always happy to discuss theology, but it’s not something most people mention by name. So it’s fun when it happens. (It’s kind of like when a Dr. Who fan happens to run into another fan off-line. “I can’t believe you want to talk about Gallifrey!”)*

I can’t think of one time in my life when I’ve visited a Baptist church and heard someone say, “I appreciate how Dispensational Theology is taught in the church.” Nor have I been at an Assembly of God church and heard anyone say, “I sure do love the Pentecostal Theology proclaimed around here.” I think interest in theology says something good about the depth of teaching in the church.

We have visited other churches over the last year that exclusively sang hymns, but this was the first such church we’ve visited with people younger than us in the congregation. (Not just younger than us, but actual young people, teens and such, singing enthusiastically.)

If we had come one week later, we would have been present for the 20th anniversary of the church. We do hope (if the Lord tarries), this good church will have many more decade celebrations.
Service length: 1 hour 10 minutes
Sermon length: 40 minutes
Visitor greeting: We were greeted warmly by many people. Some of those greeting us were old friends, but we were greeted by strangers as well. No particular attention was given to visitors in the service itself.
Our rough count: 75
Probable usher's count: 100
Snacks: We were told coffee and cookies were served in the refreshment area, but we were having too good a time talking to folks in the auditorium worship area, so we never made it there.

“We Come O Christ to You”
“O for a Thousand Tongues”
“There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
“O Church Arise”

*One more preaching bonus point for a sermon illustration from Tombstone, the Kurt Russell Western. An appropriate movie illustration gets a half bonus point, but if it’s from a Western it gets the full point. Five bonus points would be awarded for appropriate illustration from an Akira Kurosawa samurai film, but I have yet to come across this.

**You might note that no Christmas carols were sung. There were announcements for upcoming Christmas events, but they did not acknowledge the first Sunday of Advent. Fortunately, we live in a world with Youtube, and I could still hear my favorites. A friend who attends Redeemer said that usually more contemporary songs are sung, but the musicians available that particular morning were more comfortable with hymns. That's the peril of these one-visit reviews, but I believe there's value in snapshots.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Revisiting 2014: Santa Rosa Nazarene Church

Now that we're done visiting churches and bars, we're transferring our old posts here. Back when we were just starting to visit churches (and before the idea of visiting bars had occurred to us), we went to Santa Rosa Nazarene Church. We'd never worshipped in a Nazarene church before, but I remember we felt very welcomed. This post originally appeared on November 25, 2014.

Santa Rosa Nazarene Church, Santa Rosa, California
The church was ready for Thanksgiving. Instead of pews or chairs in rows there were chairs around tables, ready to serve dinner after the morning service. They'd also prepared for Thanksgiving in another way. They'd moved their cross to the center of the stage to make it the focus of thanksgiving for God's goodness.

 It was our first visit to a Nazarene church this year; neither of us recalls ever attending a Nazarene Church before. But when I went to college in San Diego, I had friends at Point Loma Nazarene College (one of 53 Nazarene colleges in the world) and went to concerts at the school (Noel Paul Stookey sans Mary and Peter). The Nazarene denomination was founded in 1908 in Texas with roots in the Holiness movement. Now there are 29,000 Nazarene churches throughout the world with over 2 million members.

The service started a couple of minutes after 11:00 am (though it seems to be growing more common in churches, there was no countdown clock to worship). The two screens on either side of the front of the sanctuary scrolled announcements and a scripture quiz, though we missed seeing either the question or the answer. During the fellowship time before the service, we'd been greeted by several members (once with, "I hope I'm not greeting you for the first time after you've been visiting here for a month."). We were certainly made to feel welcome with several invitations to stay for the Thanksgiving dinner after the service.

The pastor led worship playing the piano and his wife played the violin along with other singers in the worship team. A video was played during the announcement time illustrating the denomination's ministries for the homeless, disaster relief and foreign missions. The pastor talked about a local ministry to the homeless, through which the church had hosted dinner and an overnight stay for a group of homeless people during the previous week.

The sermon was about thanksgiving, about God's call to thankfulness and the spiritual and emotional benefits of being thankful. It was encouraging, though we were a little concerned about the lack of acknowledgement of some people's very real challenges with depression. After the sermon, sharing around the table ("What is one thing you're thankful for?") was encouraged, but our table only made it about halfway through before time was up.

The majority of the people in the congregation were older, but there were families with children and teens, and the church does have a youth pastor. There was table full of Operation Christmas child shoe boxes at the back of the church. And there was a very nice playground which I'm sure is used for the church's preschool and daycare ministries.

Were we not on this Visiting Pilgrimage Adventure, this certainly is a place we'd consider coming back to visit again.

Service Length: 60 minutes
Sermon Length: 25 minutes
Visitor Treatment: greeted several times on the way into worship, including by the pastor and his wife, greeting time during the service. No particular effort to show us where coffee or restrooms were, but many invitations to stay for the Thanksgiving meal after the service.
Our Rough Count: 110
Probable Ushers' Count: 130
Snacks: coffee, tea and hot chocolate along with a table full of goodies (fairly depleted by the time we got there, but still abundant) including peanut butter filled celery, bagel halves with cream cheese, muffins, and brownies in a side room set up like a cafe or the breakfast area of a hotel (a nice hotel).
Lord I Lift Your Name On High
Praise is Rising
Ten Thousand Reasons
Jesus Paid It All
Old Rugged Cross
That's the Power of the Cross

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Revisiting 2014: St Luke Lutheran Church

one of the first churches Dean and Mindy visited: St Luke Lutheran in Santa Rosa, California
St Luke Lutheran Church, Santa Rosa, California
We're taking another look at posts from the early days of Dean and Mindy go to church and Dean and Mindy walk into a bar. This church, which we originally wrote about on November 18, 2014, might be the first Lutheran Church Mindy was ever in. 

Sure, the Roman Catholic Church is the oldest, and various Orthodox churches can vie for second, but at nearing a half a millennia (if you mark the birth of the church with the Edict of Worms from 1521), Lutheranism is no new kid on the block. There are, as one would expect from the Protestant love of division, several branches of Lutheranism. This Sunday we attended St. Luke Lutheran in Santa Rosa, which is part of the Missouri Synod (a more conservative branch of the denomination).

Upon entering the sanctuary, I was handed a quite large bulletin. Opening it, I saw it had large print for the visually impaired, so I traded it in for the smaller bulletin. Both versions were 12 pages thick with all the hymns (music and lyrics), liturgical readings, Scripture, and prayers included. No overhead screens here (which might hide the beautiful stained glass windows).

The majority of the congregation was elderly. Before the service began and during the time of greeting there was much noise and enthusiasm (but no music), and it took a bit of effort on the pastor's part to get people quiet and back to their seats. Even though this delayed the service a minute or two each time, we thought it was lovely that the congregation was so enjoying being together.

Two children came forward for a children's sermon. There were no visual aids or parables but rather a fairly straight forward catechism of the Gospel. (And attentive listeners would also learn the proper use of the pronoun "whom".)

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was served and the bulletin had a helpful list of questions to prepare for it. Though most of the questions I could answer in the affirmative ("Am I a baptized child of God?"), there was also this question: "Do I believe that Jesus' Body and Blood are really present in the bread and wine?" There is a subtle distinction between the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and Lutheran teaching on the matter (consubstantiation), but not a large enough distinction to allow me to feel comfortable partaking. The congregation filed forward to receive communion at the front, and after all who could come forward had partaken, the pastor brought the bread and the cup to a few who were unable to come to the front. 
Evangelicals and fundamentalists often assume all mainline denominations have a rather namby-pamby approach to the Gospel, shying away from the more difficult issues. That certainly wasn't the case in this service, which focused on the theme of our eternal destiny as the opening of a ten part series entitled "Believe." The hymn "The Day is Surely Drawing Near" features such lyrics as 'Then fright shall banish idle mirth, And flames on flames shall ravage earth" and "With shame and trembling they will stand, And at the judge's stern command, To Satan be delivered."

The sermon was a clear presentation of the options of heaven and hell and the need to put faith in the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ for salvation. There was certainly a spirit of compassion in the pastor's call to reach out others with the good news of the Gospel.
After the service, we very much enjoyed talking with Pastor Fred (a retired pastor originally from Wisconsin "don'cha know"). He told a little about St. Luke's 125-year history. The stained glass window in the front of the sanctuary was donated by the family of a retired pastor, but the stained glass window in the back of the church was donated by a Jewish family who had lived across the street and apparently wanted a beautiful view (which they certainly received, though this picture doesn't do it justice).
Service length: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Sermon length: 20 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Invited in the bulletin to sign a guest card
Our Rough Count: 110 people
Estimated Usher Count: 125 people

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The first church we went to (in order to write about it)

Salvation Army Church, Santa Rosa, California, 2014
Did you read this post back in November of 2014 when we first published this at Dean and Mindy go to church? 

Salvation Army, Santa Rosa, California
The title Saved by the Bell was really wasted on a sitcom about high school. It should have been used for a Salvation Army story. 

A lot of us only know about the Army through the Christmas bell ringers. Some know the Army because of the thrift stores. But there's more, of course, to the organization than money pots and bargains. It's a charity, a business, and a church. We went to church on Sunday.

No problem finding the address and service time online, but once we were there we had a little bit of difficulty finding the chapel. We arrived about 15 minutes early and a sign at the door assured we were at the right place. Apparently, everyone was still in Sunday school. Eventually, a Salvation Army officer came out and directed us with a left, a right, and a left to the chapel. Once people emerged from the Sunday school class, we were greeted with warmth.

Early in its history (founded in 1856), the Army earned a reputation for rousing musicianship. They were famous for its brass bands. Rousing isn't the term I'd use for the music at this Sunday's service. Though most everyone joined in singing the choruses, it was far from rousing, and when we sang an old Salvation Army hymn, the piano intro made it as difficult to find the melody as it had been to find the chapel.

But there were some wonderful things about worshiping with the congregation this Sunday morning.  The Salvation Army does good work in recovery ministry, working with those who struggle with alcohol and drug addictions. About half of the congregation was composed of participants in the recovery program in Lytton Springs. One of the gentlemen from the program shared his testimony of God's work in his life, and another read scripture.

An elderly woman named Yvonne introduced the offering time, by saying that she'd heard that it's been said you can tell where someone's heart is by looking at their checkbook -- so she wrote a Scripture verse in her checkbook. We loved her fairly immediately.

The prayer time was open for sharing. One of the small group of teenagers in our row said, "We were bored yesterday, so we called the Lieutenants, and they asked us over, and we had a great time." That's the kind of thing anyone in youth ministry loves to hear.

The sermon, from 1 John 3 (and a variety of other texts) was preached by one of the Salvation Army officers, was sound if a bit scattered. The service closed with "Amazing Grace," which was a little livelier than music that came before.

As the service closed, I turned to see the nursery through large windows that opened into the chapel. A young woman sat, holding her baby girl. God's children gathered in this chapel, obviously loving and encouraging one another. May the Christian soldiers continue to move onward.

Service length: 90 minutes
Sermon length: 30 minutes
Visitor treatment: greeted several times before service started. Each first-time visitor received a blue ribbon, a handshake, and an introduction by name to the rest of the congregation. Because a large part of the group were visitors, this wasn't particularly embarrassing or awkward but welcoming.
Our rough count: 30-40 people
Probable usher count: 50 people
Snacks: cookies after, possibly coffee in a recreation room, but none in evidence in the worship service