Thus far, my church search has been disappointing to say the least. I already wrote about the megachurch in Fairfax. After them I tried a church that is listed on the Church of God website as being one of ours. It calls itself The Orchard. Honestly, that sounds like the name of a cult to me, but I decided to try it anyway. They meet in the basement of a business building. I was greeted by a middle aged woman wearing a white wig. I wish I was being poetic in describing her real hair, but she was wearing a literal white wig. I wasn’t sure if she was being intentionally eccentric or if she needed medication. She was pleasant enough, though, and you know me, I’m not necessarily put off by eccentric individuals (or ones who need to be medicated, for that matter). The room they used was about the size of my apartment with chairs set up in rows and a worship band lined up in a corner. A screen showed the lyrics of the song they were singing. (Some awful praise chorus). I sat in the back, which is to say five rows back. There were plenty of empty seats, and as I perused the faces of those who were present I saw pretty much one demographic: middle aged couples with children. At least there was some racial diversity, and, indeed the main worship leader was African American, but the racial diversity couldn’t make up for the fact that there was little age/life stage diversity and low numbers all around. Or the fact that the sermon was forgettable. No really, I don’t remember it at all, just the impression that I was not impressed. So, The Orchard was not for me.
The next week I tried out a Baptist church. I had found it online and while I get skittish about Baptist churches (that whole anti-woman thing the Southern Baptists adhere to), I decided to keep an open mind because there are different kinds of Baptists and from their website they seemed like a church with a lot going on. When I arrived, I saw they were large enough to warrant a police officer directing traffic into and out of their parking lot. I parked then followed a sea of people who were dressed better than I was into the building. After navigating my way through a labyrinthine collection of hallways and staircases, I entered the sanctuary and sat on the aisle.
The worship was really good. They sang a mix of hymns and modern praise songs, accompanied by an orchestra. They also had a choir and a hand bell performance. The preaching, though, was meh. When I visited the information desk, I was met by a sweet, older woman who was out of her depth when I asked what her church teaches about women in leadership. A guy who was nearby and overheard us stepped in and asked if he could help. He said that the church was progressive and conservative, whatever that means. Then he said they had a woman on staff as the children’s pastor (this is something I always take with a grain of salt because there are churches that let women pastor children but not adults). Then, a woman passed by and he remembered that she is also a pastor on staff at the church. She and I spoke, and I told her, “the denomination I’m from, well it’s a movement, has always allowed women to preach since it started in the 1880s.” She explained that they are a Southern Baptist (sharp, but hopefully inaudible, intake of breath on my part) in terms of sending money to the Southern Baptist convention, but that they do have two ordained women on staff and that she does preach on occasion. I asked if people intentionally didn’t come to church on days when they knew she’d be preaching and she said no.
So, I left thinking it might be an okay church for me. Certainly worth another go. I filled out a card with all my contact information and checked off four or five boxes requesting information on things like small groups and missions.
I went home the next week, so I didn’t have the chance to check out a new church. The following Sunday, I was physically exhausted from end of the quarter stuff and decided to stay home and watch the Fairfax church’s podcast, which I actually started to nod off during, not because the preaching was bad (I actually really like the preaching there, just not enough to warrant driving 40 minutes), but because I was so physically beaten down.
That brings us to this past Sunday. I researched some churches online and found one called the First Christian Church. It looked promising, their website indicating that they had small groups, outreach programs, etc. Sunday school was at 9:45 followed by church at 11. I plugged their address into my GPS and set out. When I arrived I was greeted by a locked door. There was an older woman inside and she opened the door to me. “Isn’t there Sunday school at 9:45?” I asked. “They used to have Sunday school years ago, but now just the service at 11.” I walked to my car, annoyed. Their website had blog posts dated only a few weeks before. How did it never occur to them to take Sunday school information off their website in the, apparently, years that had passed since they did away with it? Furthermore, I had to figure out what to do for church. I certainly wasn’t going to wait around until 11 to worship there.
The First Christian church happened to be on the same road as the Baptist church, so I drove there, and showed up late for their 9:30 service. I was already planning on going there in the evening to check out some missionaries from Central Asia. It had been listed in their bulletin the first time I went, and I had squirreled that information away, thinking it would be an interesting way to meet some people since I’d lived in Central Asia. When I looked through the new bulletin, there was no mention of the missionaries. After service, which again, had a pretty ho-hum sermon, I sought out confirmation that the missionaries were still scheduled. I’m glad I asked. It turned out that they were no longer going to be speaking at the church but at someone’s home. “Oh,” I said and turned to walk away. “Do you need directions?” “I don’t know anyone.” “Do you have an email address? They can contact you and give you directions.” I gave the woman my email address and left, thinking to myself, ‘do I really want to go to a complete stranger’s house?’
Then, in a moment of prescience, I decided that if they did indeed email me, I would go, ‘because,’ I thought, ‘they probably won’t email me.’ Why did I think they would drop the ball? Do you remember how I said I filled out an information card at this church three weeks prior? I had yet to be contacted by anyone regarding anything. No “we’re glad you visited us,” no “you indicated you were interested in the choir; we meet on Tuesdays at 7,” no “here are some small group Bible studies you might be interested in,” nothing.
Sure enough, even though I checked my email periodically throughout the rest of the day, I never got anything. So, I will not be attending the Baptist church and continue my quest. After Sunday’s two churches, in addition to doctrinal concerns and community concerns, apparently I now need to add “has their stuff together” to my list of things I’m looking for. It really should not be that difficult to properly communicate with newcomers.