(GRAND RAPIDS) - Today was spent at the "teaching church" of our choice. I chose First United Methodist Church, Grand Rapids. It is at the heart of City Center, and has, after a season of renewal, become a vital outreach and evangelistic link for the community.
At last, an experience resonant with my experience and spirit.
They are a radically hospitable congregation in ministry to the city. All are welcome.
Now, here's the sad part.
First UMC wasn't on the original list of "teaching churches."
Mars Hill Church was, and pulled out last minute.
First UMC was pressed into service late in the game and saved this school. Had they not been, no one from this event sponsored by the our General Boards and agencies would have experienced an established, urban centered church. All we would have had was suburban locations, worship centers, platforms and super high tech gadgetry.
There is a place for that - but it isn't the only place where vital, relevant worship and ministry takes place.
Some of God's children need a sanctuary, a pulpit, an actual Communion Table, stained glass and even a pipe organ.
First UMC was such a place. I liked much of what I saw.
There are some things I would have changed.
I didn't like Eucharist as an add on(too many of our congregations do that - by the way, if Word & Table is to be THE normative form for our worship, it can't be an "add on" it must to be central).
There was no confession and peace making.
There was no congregational response in The Great Thanksgiving.
The bread we took was not the bread that was broken ( a no-no for me). And, worst of all, what we took (which is to say it wasn't given) was in baskets cut neatly into squares. I partook of "cubed Jesus."
It's not the stuff of the church that defines them. It's the spirit of authentic welcome. Matters not what your "style" is.
Where authentic hospitality resides, there is the Church.