The first year of Seminary we are required to attend a wide variety of churches (both Lutheran and non-lutheran) along with a small group of other seminarians. After this is done we processed our experiences together.
We attended a suburban youth oriented Lutheran church. There I bristled at several worship songs that stole tunes from The Mamas and The Papas and another by Peter, Paul, and Mary and replaced the lyrics with songs that can be qualified as “Jesus -s-my-boyfriend” music. I was however very impressed by how many youth showed up jazzed-up and excited about church.
We attended a liberal Roman Catholic Church that had more icons and statues in it than I could sneeze at. I ended up asking myself whether “social justice and statues of saints go together?” I recognized that, “I’ve always thought of social justice as a prophetic thing, and prophets as smashers of statues and all attempts to put God in a box.” I suppose the question becomes, does creating statues and icons of prophets lead to more prophetic action, or does it freeze them in concrete and end their witness?
We went to a Unitarian Universalist church near the seminary and I experienced the only “Fundamentalist UU” sermon I’ve ever heard. The preacher essentially said the War on Terror is going to be a new 30 years war and only UUers can save the world from massive destruction. And if that doesn’t happen the only faith that will be left afterwards will be that of the UU. I am pretty sure he managed to break (or at least bend) the UU principle about “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
We also went to a bi-lingual Spanish/English Lutheran church that I felt very at home in. It took me the three weeks we worshiped there to figure out why. It was congregation size—despite ethnic/linguistic/liturgical differences the size matched the church I attended in Cheyenne. When I went to request a field-ed site I requested this church “or an African American church with a similar feel.” I ended up going to Tabernacle Lutheran, at least partially, because of my experience at this church.