ChurchSurfer @ St. Peter’s Episcopal: Spirituality and History

Church Experience #4 – Jan 23, 2011

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

It’s Denomination Time

After spending the first few weeks of 2011 attending non-denominational churches, I knew it was time to take ChurchSurfer into the denominational world.  Although I plan on visiting all of the popular denominations sometime this year, I couldn’t see myself going to a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian church this week because that’s what I’ve known for the majority of my life and I really wanted to experience something new.  So I chose an Episcopal Church, because I know very little about that denomination.  It turns out that its a very interesting denomination…the history, the rituals, and the people I met were all very enlightening to me.  One of the ways I feel like I grew this week was in expanding my awareness of church history and the responsibility of carrying on traditions from generation to generation.  So get ready to jump back in time…

Creating an Atmosphere

ChurchSurfer @ New Covenant Fellowship: A Lesson On Love

Church Experience #3 – Jan 16, 2011

New Covenant Fellowship Church

A Place for Every Race

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day being celebrated the day after this week’s Sunday worship, I decided to choose a church based on the potential for insight into ethnicity and race in American Christianity.  A few weeks ago while browsing different churches online, I ran across New Covenant Fellowship, a Chattanooga church that actually brands itself as a “multi-ethnic” church.  The banner on their website proclaims “A Place 4 Every Race” with multi-color letters of blue, green, yellow, red, and purple.  I found it very interesting that a church would go out of its way to place a label on itself, and knew right then that I needed to go there at some point.  It seems that so many churches these days try to avoid any labels for fear of scaring away potential visitors, and by announcing up front that they are a multi-racial congregation, New Covenant Fellowship definitely risks exactly that.  There are probably still individuals who are very uncomfortable around large groups of people of a different ethnicity, and if you’ve never been to this church before, you have no way of knowing how balanced the representation of each race will be.  I personally could care less about a person’s race.  Other than contributing to your personality, I think race/color/ethnicity has very little consequence elsewhere in our lives.  Racism still exists in today’s world, but my experience has been that it comes from all races, not just one.  I’ve been the victim of racism…I’ve been threatened and called “cracker”, but I know that was the voice of the enemy, not of that race.  I also have lifelong friends from many different races…black, hispanic, asian, european.  People are people…period.  The only people I discriminate against are those who are filled with hate, and even though I choose to love all people, I certainly won’t call racist people my friends.

ChurchSurfer @ The Net Church: Church…the building or the people?

Church Experience #2 – Jan 9, 2011

the Net Church – Chattanooga

No building? No worries!

For my first Chattanooga church experience of 2011 I decided to visit the Net Church that currently meets in the Rave movie theater off I-24 near the Moore Road exit (184).  I decided to visit this church for two reasons: 1) I met the worship leader, MJ, at my company Christmas party back in December (his girlfriend was a newly hired employee) and he spoke passionately about his church, which is always good.  And 2) I was really interested to see what a church that once had a billboard that promoted their website,, was like (visit their website for an explanation).  I’ve always been curious about the pros and cons of not having a church building.  On one hand, it seems like such a waste for every single church to build another building.  Do we really need that many church buildings?  It seems like the ones we already have don’t even get used that much.  On the other hand, I can see why a congregation would want their own space to hold events whenever they want.  The people at the Net certainly didn’t seem like not having their own building affected them in the least, and they definitely did an excellent job of utilizing the movie theater space effectively.

Church at the movies?

Churchsurfer @ Word of Life Fellowship: Big state, small town, sunny California

Church experience #1 – Dec 31, 2010 / Jan 1, 2011

Can you really call this church?

OK, so my first church experience of 2011 for the churchsurfer blog wasn’t really a typical church service…it was a wedding/worship/New Year’s celebration.  There’s only one church that I’ve ever been to that would not classify an event of this nature as “out of the ordinary” and that happens to be the church that it took place at – Word of Life Fellowship in Mi-Wuk Village, California.  If you’re wondering why someone from Tennessee spent their New Year’s in a church in a tiny mountain town in the Sierra-Nevada’s, it was to see his sister get married (congratulations Simon & Julia).  Even though this event was a wedding and a New Year’s celebration rolled into one, it was still most definitely church.  The Word of Life congregation doesn’t really do anything without “churching things up” (I’ll get into that later), so for the purposes of the churchsurfer blog, I think this will be a relevant starting point.

New school meet old school

One of the more surprising realizations that I have had in my many traverses around the country is how similar places really are.  The communities of Sonora, Twain Harte, and Mi-Wuk Village, California, are eerily similar to the small towns of Abingdon and Damascus, Virginia where I grew up.  What I would (stereotypically)  imagine most churches in California to be – casual, laid back congregations of surfer dudes and chicks – is most definitely not the case at Word of Life.  It has more similarities with 1st Baptist Church of Damascus circa 1985…men always wearing suits and ties, cleanly shaved, well groomed, polite, and the women wearing skirts or dresses, modest and friendly.  The people of Word of Life seem reserved at first introduction, yet their worship is anything but.  I guess this is a great lesson in how outwardly appearance can cause you to completely misjudge things in so many facets of life.  Had I drawn an initial conclusion about Word of Life Fellowship based on appearance I would have been way off base.

ChurchSurfer – experiencing God through people

Why blog?

For the last year, I’ve become pretty deeply immersed in the online social networking craze.  I’ve been a casual social networker since the Myspace “olden days”, and like most people, made the switch to Facebook a few years ago.  I maintain 25+ social media accounts for the company I work for, but really only keep up with a personal Facebook account away from work.  I’ve also blogged professionally as a web content manager for a couple of my most recent employers, but I’ve never blogged away from work on topics that I’m really passionate about.  It’s time to change that.  Enter ChurchSurfer.  This will be my contribution to the online community about what I feel is something that needs attention…and maybe God will use this to make a difference in someone’s life out there.  Stranger things have happened.

Lonely Christians

Here are a couple of rhetorical questions to make you think about the current state of your social Christian life.  How many people at your church do you consider close personal friends?  How many of your close personal friends are active Christians?  How many people do you have a conversation with when you go to church service (not counting casual greetings)?  If you are like me, the answers to these questions are shameful and embarrassing.  No members of any church I have attended since adulthood have ever become close personal friends to me.  Only a handful of the people who are my close personal friends are active Christians.  At an average church service I probably don’t have a real conversation with anyone, and most interaction could be described as small-talk or casual greetings.  I’m sure the enemy just loves this!  Christians are meant to be close, connected, communal, loving, giving.  We are supposed to be family to each other.  I think of the Bible verse “as iron sharpens iron, so does brother sharpen brother.”  But if we aren’t living up to God’s desire for us to be a tightly knit community of believers, we are actually becoming lonely Christians, starved and deprived of brotherly and sisterly love.

Experiencing Chattanooga, One Church at a Time