Monday, March 15, 2010

Church Shopping, Pizza Shopping – Surprisingly Similar

When we moved to Cleveland, Tennessee we knew that finding a church would be a priority. The reasons would be both religious and social. The religious motives are obvious. Church is a fantastic place to meet similar people. Not having a connection to anyone in Cleveland; the United Methodist Church seemed like a great place to start.

So we’re Methodists. That requires certain things of us. See the link. Many are comical, but oh so true.

I’ve had the opportunity to be employed at two United Methodists churches where we’ve lived over the past years. This was a blessing and more of a curse. I have more than a vague idea how things are supposed to be done. I pick up a bulletin or newsletter and start proofreading and checking the spacing without even know I’m doing it.
Here’s where it’s key to know something about Cleveland. This is NOT a transient place. Of course people change churches from time to time, but these people are not new to the area – unlike us. People who change churches here have been to several weddings at the church, sent their kids to Bible school there two summers ago, and your sister in law attends currently. You’ve got friends there…

Just an Off Day
Like anything done with people and music and microphones and oratory, sometimes there’s just an off day. Especially with churches. Church 1 was having an off day the first Sunday we attended. In my experience I knew to blow it off and just go again. But the next week we attended elsewhere; for no particular reason, really.

Church 2 was really having an off day. We weren’t sure if we were at a coffee shop for open mic showcase or at an Indy Rock concert. I was waiting for someone to come by and take my order for a tall 1 ½ shot latte with fat free milk. After what felt like 2 hours we finally left before it was over. We still feel guilty. But if you ask me about this, I’ll blame it on my son’s behavior.

At both locations we were greeted fairly warmly, but nothing more. My “church worker radar” has kicked on now.

When Church 2 gave what I thought to be a heartily un-Methodist message, we moved on the next week – husband and son in tow, complaining.

I’ve never been to a taping of “Live with Regis and Kelly” but after a visit to Church 3 I feel like I have. They were sitting on the high stools as Regis and Kelly do. Then they had guests of sort come by to discuss the latest book or lecture series the church was studying. Again, churches have off days. My mistakes have caused them, I’ve no doubt. We attended Church 3 many times until I could be ignored no more. So back to Church 1 we go.

Church Worker Radar Run Amok???????
After a disastrous visit to another denomination, we begin attending Church 1 regularly. We now know 2 couples in Cleveland they both attend there. Week after week we attend and are greeted warmly enough by those sitting around us. I’ve been the one who goes through the attendance sign-in sheets at previous jobs. Visitors must be acknowledged or “dealt with” in some way. The church worker in me knows that IF YOU SIGN THE REGISTER YOU’RE ASKING TO BE CONTACTED-not courted, church is not about that. I signed every week. Churches where I worked the pastor who gave the message called first-timers; a team of volunteers usually visited and brought a mug or homemade bread or whatever at some point. Then periodic check-ins from staff or clergy making sure you’re not ready to join. Not overwhelming, just available. I never got a postcard or a letter. Church worker Anne was going mad!

Domino’s Pizza
 Not long ago Domino’s Pizza changed their recipe. Did you hear? One night we got home late and had no food in the house, so a pizza was ordered – a treat at our house. The disk in the cardboard carton was the worst thing we’ve ever eaten. It was a “new and improved” gloppy, greasy mess. We could barely eat it. After consuming enough to stave off hunger until groceries could be bought we threw away 2/3 of a pizza.

I was outraged!!!! I spent $25 on this disaster delivered in 30 minutes or less??? I immediately sent Domino’s an email informing them what I thought of their product that will keep the Pepto people in business a little longer. Then I realized, I’ll go to that much trouble over a pizza, A PIZZA, but I won’t inform the church of my dilemma.

I carefully crafted an email to the Sr. Pastor and Associate Pastor. Keep in mind this email struck the correct tone. I’ve written for churches, written grants and many things were articulation is crucial. No acerbic wit in this – just sincerity. After I hit “send,” I looked at my watch so I would know how long it took to get a response.

Exactly two hours later my phone rings. It’s the senior pastor and he’d like to visit us as we’ve been attending for quite a while. I gladly accepted and invited him to our home. Luckily husband was out of town because he was mortified at the fact I sent an email.

The pastor came and we had a typical and “nice” pastoral visit- just what I wanted. As Methodists we’ll get over the top excited about so and so’s casserole at the luncheon, but hardly ever anything else. During the course of the visit I realized he hadn’t received my email. Insert a Homer Simpson “DOH!!!!” A call was made to him that we had not been properly “called upon”. The Pastor and I act like this missive doesn’t exist. Most Sr. Pastors I know can’t email anyway so he probably really didn’t receive it.

So we’ll join Church 1 in the next week or so. But to be a good Methodist we need to do it on a day where there are not baptisms or Communion or commissioning of a mission team or whatever that might make church run long. As Methodists it’s considered rude to make people late for lunch after church, have to change a Sunday afternoon tee time or possibly miss kick off.

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