Exploring Chicago’s Religious Life

For the next several weeks, while we have time, Rebecca and I will be visiting a range of different churches in Chicago.  Our hope is to experience the diversity of worship styles, embodied theological practices, and church programs.  Not only will this provoke discussion between Rebecca and me regarding our likes, dislikes, and hopes for the future, but it will also serve to expand my sense of church life and what it can do/accomplish (as well as what to avoid!).

Already, we have visited Urban Village Church and the Moody Church.  We both enjoyed Urban Village because of the quasi-charismatic singing (clapping, swaying, grooving). The worship atmosphere was inviting and the leaders displayed a sense of deep commitment to the gospel and a rich understanding of the value of and need for community.  Contemporary worship styles and evangelical substance mingled with theologically liberal sensibility (open and affirming, though not gay-centric, worship).

Moody turned out to be quite a disappointment.   We did not attend the morning worship service in the main sanctuary.  We went to the contemporary Sunday night service.  I felt the service was very flat, especially in comparison to our Sunday morning experience–songs of praise were sung and led with little energy at Moody.  The emphasis on beliefs and the intellect prevented a robust sense of embodiment.  The sermon was long and more like a lecture.  While bible references abounded, no one was ever encouraged to open a bible or read along.  Instead biblical stories (Genesis, Ruth) were condensed and told to us rather than inviting us into the story ourselves.  Few stories from personal experience emerged, and most of the sermon was on Redemption while the word for the evening was “rescue.”  To top it off, there was a completely unrelated rant on the “absolute uniqueness” of Christianity in its relation to other religions… it seemed tangential at best.  Finally, at the end of the service, when the sermon came to and end and after a bit more singing, the worship leader asked, “What is next Sunday?”  An elderly woman in the front row answered proudly, “Fourth of July!”  To which the worship leader snarled “NO!” as he pointed her out, “It’s our independence day concert!”  While he might have intended an edge of humor to his retort, the worship leader sounded to me like a real jerk:  un-caring and self-promoting.

I learned a lot from attending and experiencing both churches, and Rebecca and I have a few more in mind.  If you have any suggestions, let me know!  I trust our last month in Chicago will be religiously enriching for our personal spiritual lives and our relationship.

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