Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sundays in America: King's Chapel

The UU Beacon Press recently published "Sundays in America: A yearlong road trip in search of Christian faith" by Suzanne Strempek Shea. In it, she, who grew up Catholic, spends a year visiting non-Roman Catholic churches in America each Sunday. One of those, visited on the third Sunday of Advent, is King's Chapel in Boston.

She writes that she hadn't planned to visit a UU church because she was just doing non-Roman Catholic Christian Churches, but then a UU told her, she writes, "some congregations lean Christian, including a very historic one in my very own state."

She had a good visit. She describes the building and the history of its founding in 1686, talks about Unitarianism in Transylvania a bit, and then describes her visit. A woman who sits near her describes KC as like Episcopalian, but High Episcopalian. that her own beliefs are summed up that Jesus Christ was born, but not of a virgin. She talks about the current ninth edition of the 550 page Book of Common Prayer. Then she goes through the service element of the order by element, including "we read the general confession and prayer from the book of common prayer. the words are a bit different but it's essentially the same soul-cleaning that has started so many services this year. Revs. Rali Weaver, now at Dedham, and Rev. Earl Holt, are leading the service.

A reading from Luke is used where John the Baptizer is calling the crowds a brood of vipers, from which much of the sermon comes. She finds the choir dazzling. She mentions the female usher. She highlights the announcements particularly of Milk Punch Sunday, three decades long. Watchmen, Tell Us of the Night is sung, one that is new to her.

She sees "Pastor Earl' materialize in the big pulpit and wishes she had seen him climbing the stairs. Earl addresses John and Advent and says there is no way through Advent without John; joking that the Advent before he retires, he is going to start a sermon like that; "you brood of vipers!" He talks about baptism and the desire for change, and how Jesus demands all we have, now just a little of us. "Maybe," she quotes Earl saying, "that's why they came out, to be confronted with the truth about themselves.' She quotes more of his sermon. And says, "I like Pastor Earl. I like his words. I like his smarts. I like his little white bow tie. I don't know firsthand what goes on in the mainline UU churches, but I could have plunked any member of my Roman Catholic family in this church this morning and afterward heard nary a "what was that about?'"

The other churches during the year are:
New Mount Zion Baptist Church, NYC, Colorado Springs Cowboy Church; First Baptist, Spartanburg, SC, Arch Street Friends Meeting House, Philadelphia, First Church of Christ Scientist, Boston, St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, Newport, RI, Cadet Chapel, West Point, Trinity Evangelical Church, Peterborough, NH, Trinity Episcopal Church by-the-sea, Hawaii, South Royalton Ward Meetinghouse, Vermont, St. Sebastian Catholic Church, Baltimore, Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA; Philadelphia Deliverance Church of Christ, Columbus, OH, Calvary's Light Church, Three Rivers, MA, UMC of Enfield, CT, Unity, Unity Village, MO; Lakewood Church, Houston, TX; The Riverside Church, NYC, Lagniappe Presbyterian, Bay St. Louis, Miss; Moffett Road Assembly of God, Mobile Ala; Meetinghouse of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, New Gloucester, Maine; Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, San Francisco; Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif, Mars Hill Church, Seattle; Trinity UCC, Chicago; Genesis Church of the Brethren, Putney, Vermont; Danbury-Bethel Seventh-Day Adventist, Bethel CT, Calvary's light Church, Three Rivers, MA; First Spiritual Temple, Brookline, MA; Living Waters Foursquare Gospel Church, Smithfield RI, North Reformed Church, Newark, NJ; Metropolitan Community Church, Richmond VA; Mashpee Baptist Church, Mashpee MA, Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE; Brown Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal, Louisville, KY; Central Moravian, Bethlehem, PA; Times Square Church, NYC, The Portland New Church, Portland ME, Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church, Hamtramck Michigan, Kykotsmovi Mennonite Church, Kykotsmovi Village, Hopi Nation; Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Milwaukie, OR; Northhampton Vineyard, Northampton, MA; Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale, FL; Harvest Church of the Nazarene, Las Vegas, NV; Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, Memphis TN, All Saints Parish, Brookline MA; St. Mary's Convent, Greenwich NY, Revolution Church, Brooklyn, NY; Interfaith Chapel, Denver Airport.

Here is one of her concluding paragraphs: "I don't know what the others are finding in their travels, but the past year has distilled for me the qualities I'd need in a new church home: a community that welcomed me warmly, didn't give a whit about my politics or lifestyle, gave tons of whits about the social justice needs locally and beyond, contained little-to-no hierarchy, allowed congregants a say in decisions large and small offered a spiritual message inspired by love rather than fear, and did all this in an art-filled space that rang with awesome music."