Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Church attendance conundrum, proper post: Part 2

I've been a church goer all my life. Like most people I was brought to church as a baby, oblivious to what was going on around me. Eventually I decided to be baptized when I was eighteen (I grew up in a Baptist Church). When I started going to Ryerson University in Toronto I started going to a United Church and as a preference I have been attending United services ever since.

My post is not; however, about choosing the type of church to attend. Not in the Baptist v. United v. Catholic, way at least.

I'm having some issues with the church I attend in Edmonton. It's Robertson-Wesley United Church. When I started going there about three years ago, they had an intern minister, Rev. Ravencraft (awesome name, I know. I used it in a MS). He was a very good minister. I liked the way he constructed his sermons. The music was also good, so I kept going. After a short while, R-W brought in a new minister, Rev. Allen. I was not enamored with his sermons. I actually stopped going for a while and checked out a different church in Edmonton. Eventually I returned because I still preferred the music.

This past Sunday, Easter Sunday, Rev. Allen gave another one of his sermons. He used a movie plot to describe the idea of light coming out of darkness. He didn't even mention Jesus being resurrected (wouldn't you think that was a requirement for an Easter Sunday service?). I find I'm often at odds with his choice of words or metaphors. I don't disagree with his message, I just tend not to like the way he presents it. Meanwhile, Rev. Ravencraft is still at R-W, as the youth minister. I couldn't help but wonder on Sunday, as he sat in the front row of the church listening to Rev. Allen, does he realize he's a far superior preacher and sermon writer? I don't know. Maybe he just really likes to work with kids.

This got me thinking that maybe I should look for a different church to attend. One that offers me better spiritual fulfillment. Problem is, I'm picky.

I do like the music at R-W. The choir is generally well practiced, the organist is sufficiently skilled and there are often musical "extras" such as a bell choir, or visiting external choirs, which I really enjoy. But, the anthems are almost always "high" choral pieces, i.e. often the composer was dead long before the 20th century and the words are in Latin. And most of the hymns are old, traditional ones, despite the fact that they have a newer more contemporary hymnal in the pews.

This is the real crux of my problem. Here's what I don't like (ney hate) in church music. Electric guitars, drums, groups of young-ish people standing at the front of the church singing at me instead of with me and above all else: screen projectors. I do not want/need a rock band in church. What I would like is a choir that occasionally sings something written after 1900. Same with the hymns. I don't even mind guitars or pianos (instead of organs) during a church service, just don't plug them in. And for God's sake (yes God's) give me the real music, not just the words flashing up on a screen. These demands may be difficult to meet if I want to find a congregation that isn't entirely made up of retirees.

As I commented to Andrew on the weekend, if I'm going to switch churches I need to start looking now. If I wait until the summer I'll find that regular church ministers are away on vacation and I won't get a proper representation of what the church I visit is like. And I have to remember, we have a car. I don't have to attend a church because it's within walking distance.



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