Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I visited a new church this weekend. I'm not church-hunting these days, but sometimes it's nice to see how the other 1% live, right? I sometimes wonder about the East Bay churchgoing community outside of First Pres--who are all of these people, and what kind of churches have they formed? So many of the churches here are basically ethno-specific. Where do all of the rest of us go? And anyway, Maggie was in town, and we'd talked about giving Regeneration a trial run, so I cheated on the 5:05.

My impression of Regen is: for better or for worse, this church out-Oaklands Oakland. They began as a church plant and eventually inherited an old Julia Morgan church building on E. 15th St. from a church that was literally dying out. The congregation is a nice match for the old building: diverse in ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and age, though tending towards the younger set. It's also hip. Hipper than hip. Can church be that hip? I'm not sure I can hang with the hipness of that congregation. They have a kickball team, which kind of says a lot, I think. They also take a pilgrimage to Israel every other year, which also says a thing or two. The worship music was determinedly against the grain of the modern church; these people were all about classic hymns, sort of bluegrassed up. Seriously, when was the last time I sang "In the Garden"? About the time Ralph Lightbody retired, I think. (That would be 1990.) I love that song. I miss hymnals, and words like "tarry."

I guess I appreciate the skeleton of Regeneration: the worship is focused and not showy, the preaching is scriptural in a way that my own church (and possibly Presbyterians in general?) sometimes misses, the congregation reflects the community, and the liturgical and the postmodern are blended in a subtle and thoughtful way. Things ran a little long--2 1/2 hours, or roughly an hour longer than my own church--but can I really fault them for being hardcore?

The thing is, though, that I'm so glad I go to my church. First Pres has its flaws, certainly, but I think it's thoughtful in its own way. For a church of 5,000 people, I'd say we do a remarkable job of not falling into the traps of the American mega-church juggernaut. I may appreciate the skeleton of Regeneration, but I appreciate the meat of First Pres--liturgical gardening (you think I'm kidding), the determination that all services should be followed by food, a visual arts ministry that actually produces interesting art, the Four Hornmen of the Apocalypse, my small group that's really kind of a medium group, "The body of Christ, broken for you; the blood of Christ, shed for you," sprinkling baptism (which isn't as lame as you'd think, coming from a church of dunkers), the modern abolitionist movement, silly Christmas skits, less-silly Christmas cantatas, and a whole host--a whole host--of other things. It's a good place, full of light and hope and learning and family, and I'm glad I go there.

So, thank you, Regen, for letting me visit, and thanks even more for reminding me of where I'm supposed to be.


Anonymous said...

Hey, don't dis the hymns. Some of us still use the books, even! Y'know, the ones with the music in them so you actually can figure out the tune? I have to admit that I'm intrigued by the bluegrass angle, though. I've always thought that "hip" churches should be non-discriminatory when it comes to music. There are lots of Michael Bolton churches out there, but we need some Barry White churches, some Snoop Dogg churches, some (dare I say it?) Rufus Wainwright churches. The sin of the megachurch is to assume that everyone likes vanilla soft-pop sing-a-longs. I hate the cheese with a passion. Just chain me to the organ and leave me there. Or just tarry as I sing along... [Ben]

Teri said...

I love In the Garden, in part because it has my name in it (and like everyone else, they spell it wrong). We've been going to Nathan & Kirt's church, and they can't seem to decide between hymns and choruses. They also have several worship teams, and each one has a different style. It all feels very schizophrenic.

Teri said...

So, at Bible Study last night, it was mentioned that the aforementioned church we have been going to is replacing the pews this fall because they are falling apart...with stadium seating. Arrrrrgh! It's not a movie theater, people! Just thought I'd share.

Anonymous said...

Well...you know..I am not a regular church kind of guy but I am a full on Jesus Freak! My best time ever in church was at Tacoma First Baptist singing Breath with Al and Paul and an amazing assortment of folks including skin heads and tatooed folks and street people and of course..me. Genuine love for Him was so abundant. Daughter and Son singing..only thing missing was your voice.
Al's Dad

Liz said...

Ben, I'm not dissing hymns; I *like* them. I'm just saying it's been a long time since I've sung some of them in church (though my church sneaks quite a few into the contemporary service, which is nice).

I dig the Barry White and Rufus Wainwright churches. Snoop Dogg isn't so much my style, but I have no problem with him being a worship leader somewhere--if Hammer can do it, why not Snoop? :) (I have yet to visit Hammer's church in San Leandro, but I'm going to, one of these days, mark my words!)

Liz said...


Stadium seating?! Argh. I'm a pew girl, myself. I don't even like chairs, because they make me feel like I'm in some kind of professional development training.

Also, my friend Maggie and her husband really like the church they go to down there. I don't remember the name, though. It's Southern Baptist, and she says the music's not very good, but the preaching's supposed to be amazing.

Liz said...

Aww, Al's Dad, you'll have to come to church with us at TFBC next time I'm up. I love that church (contrary to popular belief) attracts all kinds. Makes it so much more fun!