Stained Glass Window Shopping

I love visiting churches.  I loved my multi-cultural church during my second year of seminary, but the only thing I disliked was that working there meant I had to stop my Sunday morning church-visiting regimen…. my “stained glass window shopping,” if you will.  No intention to buy/convert, but lots of fun thinking about what the ideal church would be!

My first year, I had a good group of people that I went around with, usually filling up a car-load of people to each church, and I visited churches almost haphazardly… wherever other people were going, that’s where I went.

So with a group of adventurous church-goers my first year in Atlanta, I visited:

  • Ebenezer Baptist (MLK’s home church… I went to this church the Sunday after Obama’s election.  I began crying during the opening hymn and continued for a while… this after walking past the iconic blue sign that I had only ever seen in high school history textbooks)
  • St. John’s Lutheran Church (This is the church that defines LITURGY as THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE.  Their Easter vigil carries you from darkness to light, culminating in a dance around the communion table & the extension of that table with all wine, chocolate, and all of the other goodies you might’ve given up for Lent.  The pastor is an incredible man who—by following God’s call—helped to open the denomination to out & partnered LGBT pastors.  I’m really excited to have him teach my Weddings & Funerals practicum this semester)
  • Oakhurst Baptist (progressive, inclusive Baptist church… the kind I could join if they were a little more “connectional” ;-)… Of course, I love that they stood for Baptist autonomy after being kicked out of the Georgia Baptist Convention!  The Sunday I was there they ordained new deacons — everyone in the church (including me) took turns laying hands on the ordinands… it was powerful!)
  • Cascade UMC (large African-American United Methodist congregation, formerly led by Walter Kimbrough, the guest speaker at my annual conference the summer I came to seminary)
  • Unitarian Universalist (this was the day that I realized I that prayer changes things—it is more than just “sending warm thoughts,”  which was the way the worship leader had phrased it during the sharing of joys & concerns!  Similarly, I have really appreciated the UU students in my classes at Candler, since they constantly challenge me to consider WHY my Christian theology is shaped the way it is)
  • Ray-Thomas Memorial / Bethany Presbyterian (Anglo/Brazilian/Korean [both EM (English Ministries – for 1.5+ generations & KM (Korean Ministries – for first-generation immigrants)] congregations that share a building & a denomination)
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church (the first African-American Catholic church in Atlanta; my college chaplain worshiped here when she went to Candler and since she was influential in my seminary decision, I knew I had to check it out!)
  • Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter (church made up primarily of people with mental/emotional/developmental disabilities… trust me, the Spirit of Christ is here—and She is making noise!)

I’m missing quite a few, but those are the ones that stand out—the ones that I would tell others to visit 🙂

I like to hear other seminary friends preach, so I’ve spent a good number of Sundays at the churches where they work, generally United Methodist with Episcopal and Disciples of Christ churches thrown in for good measure (actually the Disciples church was awesome… the first time I went I heard my first female senior minister preach and I watched, awestruck, thinking, “I want to BE her!” That was my first weekend in seminary.  My second visit to that church was the next semester, when I heard the legendary Fred Craddock… I was star-struck for the second time!).

How has church shopping been for you?  Did you visit similar places (a good percentage of my blog readership went with me ;-))? Have you ever church shopped for a time or season in your life?  Why (or why not) — and what did you take away from the experience?

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