Went to a number of the local churches this past weekend. (‘Local’ my butt — it’s like driving to Jersey or Connecticut from Long Island, everything’s so far apart and still LA.)
First stop was West Angeles COGIC, Crenshaw Blvd, where two women were gleefully describing what it is to sing worship there. (One of them does solos on occasion, the other’s a choir singer.) Super smiles! It was just a hello stop, but a good one. As always, some spending in the neighborhood, picking up an accessory and lunch at El Pollo Loco.
At night, it was Saddleback Church. Moving stuff about forgiveness, reconciliation, and Rwanda, with a Rwandan church leader speaking. Rick Warren is on message, giving a teaching sermon on the whys of forgiving. I never seem to get used to worshipping in auditoriums, even when they’re called worship halls. (That applies to many old-style cathedrals, too, for some reason.) I had brief chats with people involved in educational ministries. I was a bit surprised how quickly things wrapped up after the service — longer than LI churches, but shorter than they let on, all the special tent areas and such were picked up and the worship building being locked up around 8:30. No hanging here. It was also not much of a ‘worship service’. To me, it was a very good basic seminar class framed by music and dotted with a prayer at the end.
Next up was Sunday morning, which was started at Lutheran Church of the Master ELCA – Lancaster. They were friendly and had a pretty good supply/temporary pastor, but not much membership. Next after that, Mosaic – West LA. They had to fudge their setup; usually, they are at Beverly Hills High, but they had to switch to an elementary school for this one service. Again, not as much of a worship service as I was expecting; basically some songs followed by an Erwin McManus message, then another song and some hanging out. It felt much looser and less rushed, and I got to talk to some more people. None of those emergent-type worship elements like art, ancient practices, questions, rock music, etc., but then this was on the fly.
None of it really felt like worship. Part of that was me (the phone call that took me out of LC of the Master before Communion, and the fact that this is a vacation). Part was the services (songs – teachings – songs is not, to me, much of an act of worship). But at least I was there. I tried not to go in with expectations, but of course I had them anyway. What was more impressive than the worship was how involved these churches are. Each has made commitments to large-scale projects in LA and in other countries. In the case of Saddleback and Mosaic, they took on large projects involving many volunteers, and working with government and other churches. I’m used to having little money and even less volunteers. Time will tell if this will have any impact on such a big place as LA.