I chose to attend a service at Church of the Highlands despite all of the warnings from you non-denominational haters. My desire to check it out stemmed partially from the controversy over the legitamacy of this Church, and partially from the fact that a very dear friend of mine, who was raised Catholic like myself and has never really been religious, has found this place and actually enjoys going to Church. Here are a few of my preconceived notions prior to entering the doors of Six Flags Over Jesus.
1.Must be a cult. I mean, seriously, religious services aren’t meant to make you feel good about yourself or be fun, are they? Why does everyone I know who goes there love it? They must be brainwashed.
2.It could actually be interesting. I mean, I have some really good friends who are somewhat normal who go there and enjoy it.
3.Definitely has to be a cult. Who would sit in traffic for that long just to go to church?
So I figured I would go try it out for myself, accompanied by my fellow cynic and long-time heathen friend, Hoolie.
First Impression: As we walk in the doors of the giant commune, we are greeted by ushers with smiles on their faces and pass the nursery for the kids, which by the way has a pretty sweet set up of flat screen TVs and brightly painted walls. The smell of fresh brewed coffee fills the air and normal looking people grab a cup and make their way towards the main hall. So far, no funny robes or koolaid. Hoolie and I enter what seems like a civic center and grab some seats---front and center. If I am going to experience this I want to be up close and personal.
The service begins with some music to get the crowd excited. Now, we aren’t talking about a choir and piano and a sing-song hymn from the misalette…we are talking a full out rock band with multiple electric guitars, a keyboard, singers, drums and the lyrics up on the two most ginormous flat screen TVs I have ever seen. Great acoustic rhythm and rhymes fill the air and I can't help but sing along. As the catchy tunes continue I find myself briefly lapsing into the movie "Saved" starring Mandy Moore-- which, by the way, is the best movie she made. Wait, I think she only made two... As I zone back in--no wait, A Walk to Remember is totally Mandy's best movie, her character dies!--the music portion ends and we all welcome Pastor Chris to share his message of the day.
Sermon in nutshell: We don't know all the answers to why things happen the way they do, but that's okay because God does and when we get to heaven, everything will make sense then. (Listen guys, She knows what She's doing, ok?) The message of "Be Assured" is one that definitely appeals to the masses, for it is simple and uplifting for anyone. I, however, am not just anyone, as we all know.
I may be a snob, but, aren't you supposed to question? We wouldn't have advanced so far to where we are today if it weren't for all of the wonderful philosophers and scientists out there who initially questioned everything and sought out more than just what was in front of them. While the message delivered by Pastor Chris came off as a bit surface-level, I realize that this is ok. Not everyone goes to church to challenge their sinful selves for a chance at Redemption. Some people actually enjoy that little boost of a good feeling. Must be that damn Jesuit education that spoiled me on the beauty of intellect and trying to explain everything... Even more so, I realize that this is my generalization of a whole batch of non-denomers based on one sermon. To responsibly critique these Jesus freaks, one has to attend at least twice.
Overall, Hoolie and I left with a smile on our faces, despite the fact that we were stuck in traffic for a good 15 minutes--still sitting in our parking space. One thing that made me wonder: Do Yankee pastors differ in their approach to preaching to their congregation? I just know you can't find that good ole southern charm in Jersey.