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.