On a recent Wednesday morning while waiting for people to return my phone calls, I sat at my desk and attended a church in Granger, Ind.
I found Granger Community Church (“GCC”) while researching T.D. Jakes’ church in Dallas, Texas, The Potter’s House. A Religion feature I’m writing for the paper is about a new local church that’s associated with the Texas church.
As to how I found GCC, a Web site listing the Top 60 church blogs had GCC as blog No. 59 and I clicked on the link.
After watching a few minutes of the church service I sought out other church Web sites to see if I could attend their services, too.
At Northland, A Church Distributed, I was able to watch and listen to Dr. Joel Hunter in Longwood, Fla., and then I went to Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where Alistair Begg, who has the coolest Scottish accent, spoke from the gospel of Mark, chapter 2.
Each church service was different. GCC started out with a worship rock concert with loud electric guitars, dueling drummers and an extremely clever and well-made video before the sermon delivered by a young, hip pastor who spoke about becoming “Version 2.0 of ourselves through the transformative power of Jesus.”
The Parkside service began with a violin solo of an old hymn and an average performance by a praise team. The Northland service was more middle of the road, more my style. Dr. Hunter spoke about “How Skepticism Helps Mature Our Faith.”
While I thoroughly enjoyed “attending” all three services, I didn’t feel like I participated. I watched on my computer monitor and listened through my headphones, pausing when the phone rang or to get up for more coffee. And as much as I wanted to sing along with the congregations (“Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore….”), well, I was sitting at my desk at work, and the newsroom isn’t really conducive to worship.
I suppose I could sing if I wanted to, but I can guarantee no one (except maybe God) wants to hear me. Besides, there’s something about blending your voice with others that makes having a not-great voice sound like music — sound like worship.
If there’s one thing I got out of my Wednesday morning church service it’s this: I didn’t experience church.
I watched and listened to music and announcements and creeds and prayers and sermons, all the elements of church, but it wasn’t church.
A friend recently listed 100 things about herself on her blog. One of the things about her is No. 31 — “Sometimes I think church is dumb.” (No. 32 is “I do not think God is dumb.”)
Her lack of enthusiasm for church is One of the Things We Do Not Discuss, since she knows how I feel about it. Enough said. We’re still friends.
In the years I’ve written this column, church has been a recurring theme. I love the whole experience, from walking in through the front door and finding my seat up front, singing favorite songs and reciting creeds to taking notes during the sermon.
I love serving communion and looking out on all the people and praying for certain individuals, those who are there and those who I wish were there.
A few weeks ago I’d gone to the Saturday night service. It had rained all day, and from my seat I could see black clouds outside through the high arched windows in front of me. On my bulletin I wrote, “The dark clouds swirl overhead and the thunder roars, yet I am safe inside this sanctuary, singing and praying, sitting in awe and wonder at the One who covers us in grace.”
I felt God’s presence, felt part of his family, safe from the wind and the rain. “Sanctuary,” I whispered to myself.
And that, I think, is the essence of going to church and what was missing from the church services over the Internet. Church, to me, is a place that reminds me that, in a world of virtual realities, God is true reality. In a world of storms, church is the safe place where we find him. It and he are our sanctuary.
I don’t understand those who think otherwise.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.