Sunday #15 – Coker United Methodist Church, 231 E. North Loop Rd., San Antonio, TX
Happy Easter, everyone!
Thanks to those who provided feedback after last week’s posting about the First Church of Christ, Scientist. I’m truly grateful to hear from people I know, and those I’ve never met who take time to share their knowledge about the various facets of a church service that I just don’t get. Who knew that the odd offering plates used in the Christian Science church are designed to prevent those around you from knowing how much you have just dropped in the “plate.” CLEVER!
Why this Methodist church?
My book club members have shown continued interested in the blog and what I’m learning along the way, so suggestions of churches proliferate during these monthly meetings. One of the book club members sings at this Methodist church, so she suggested I come to Easter services at Coker and hear the orchestra. Sounded good to me, as I’ve not heard an orchestra in church yet. Wouldn’t you know that with three Easter services today, I would chose the only one that didn’t have the orchestra playing. Instead, a wind ensemble regaled the crowd with bright sounds of trumpets and other horns.
Besides, how many churches could I possibly attend that have their very own cemetery? How cool is that? And I didn’t even know who Coker was before going to church today. Must have missed that in my Texas history class. Apparently, the state of Texas gave Coker this land for his efforts in the Battle of San Jacinto.
My Preconceived Ideas of Methodist Churches
I believe I may have been to a Methodist church way, way, WAY back in the 60s or 70s. My good friend Helen Loper attended the Methodist church in Sour Lake at one time and if I think hard enough, I do believe I attended church with her on one occasion. If memory serves, which it usually doesn’t, I think the Methodist service was much like Baptist services, except there was a bit more ritual thrown in.
When First Baptist Church of Nome burned to the ground, First Methodist of Nome opened their doors to their neighbors and allowed them to hold services in their church while the Baptists rebuilt. So, I’d also say from that experience these Methodists are people with generous hearts.
With it being Easter and no formal long bike ride planned for the day, I lassoed Don Bullard to accompany me to church. As we whipped into the parking lot, we had about five minutes to spare before the 8:15 a.m. service. Guess what awaited me in the lot – a first-timers, EMPTY parking spot. Score!
As we entered the sanctuary, several men dressed in suits greeted us, and again another gentleman greeted me as we took a seat in a pew about half-way back from the stage. A few seconds later, a procession began down the main aisle, comprised of the pastor, other ministers carrying a pitcher of water (still don’t know what the symbolism of pouring water before a service is all about), altar boys and girls carrying candles, another person holding a large bible in the air and then all the choir members filing in after that. I looked around and saw the small group of horns and (gasp) hand bells at the front. My heart jumped because I used to play in the hand bell choir at First Presbyterian Church in Kingwood. Such fun to ring!
As the service began, we all stood to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” Three large projection screens highlighted the words to the hymn. About right here, I thought: These projection screens are putting hymn publishers out of business. Hymnals can still be found in the back of the pews, but nobody ever opens them. What a waste!
While we sang, I looked around and saw that this early morning crowd was primarily comprised of older adults, in the 40-80 age range – those who actually enjoy waking up early. My peeps! I guess the younger crowds arrive later, because the service was only half full. Men primarily wore suits and ties while others dressed business casual, but I kind of expected that with it being Easter.
Staring straight ahead, I noticed tall strips of stained glass windows framed the stage and a massive ceiling soared above with a swath of interspersed lights. When I give you my tag-a-long friend’s background as a degreed electrical engineer, you’ll understand why his thoughts weren’t on stained glass this morning. Instead, he couldn’t help fixating on how anyone would ever change the light bulbs way up there. <rolling eyes> Much more important to fixate on the stained glass.
Together, we also became fixated on Pastor Barbara’s stole she wore around her neck and over her robe. Both sides of her stole together made one single image and strangely throughout the service, neither side ever rode up or down, but left a beautiful embroidered scene before the congregation. Not sure why that fascinated me so.
Of all the churches I’ve attended thus far, I’ve never heard a better storyteller than Pastor Barbara. She immediately went into a story about a young girl who became enchanted with horny toads. It’s a long story, but I can tell you that it does, indeed, relate to Easter. What mesmerized me the most wasn’t this particular story, or the following story about the death of a fellow pastor she knew. Even though that story brought a tear to my eye that welled up at the corner and then plunged down my cheek, it was the pastor’s uncanny ability to deliver a story, and even an entire sermon, without one “filler” word that had me transfixed. Those um’s, ah’s and you know’s that we sadly use to fill the gaps in our speech while our mind moves from one thought to another were never present the whole morning.
I’ve only ever met one other person with this amazing ability – Doreen Virtue – a spiritual doctor of psychology and a fourth generation metaphysician. To understand just how amazing this talent is, search Coast to Coast AM with George Noory and listen to a past Doreen Virtue interview. Truly an amazing example of an interview or speech without a single filler.
After the sermon came the offering. While the ushers passed the brass plates from pew-to-pew, the choir sung in the background. The only difference that I noted at this point was that the ushers came back to the front, where the altar boy and girl held out their hands for the plates that they then took to the altar.
After one more hymn came the highlight of the service – the Hallelujah Chorus. With the instruments playing, everyone sang along to this piece that can bring the hairs on your arms to attention, no matter how many times you may have heard it before.
Post Service Commentary
I enjoyed worshipping here for Easter. I’m so disappointed I missed the orchestra, but the wind instruments and choir didn’t disappoint. The service felt very much like a Baptist service, only with a bit more ritual and slightly more reverence. The only clapping came at the end of the service after the Hallelujah chorus. However, I did see one evangelical slip into the service, because she raised her hand high in the air as the choir sang the well-known chorus. Nobody joined her, but having experienced this before in other churches, I recognized the overflow of gratitude that causes someone to demonstrate appreciation in this way. See…..I’m learning.
Oh, and one other funny thing happened at the end of the service. It would be inappropriate to mention here, but ping me if you want to hear this funny story and I’ll delight in sharing it with you.
Sister Suzanne has an extra ticket on Thursday to hear a religious speaker who is in town in Austin, so I’ll head north to attend that with her. Does that count as a church service? It might have to, as I’m supposed to be in Wimberley for a bike race on Sunday…..only watching, not participating. Perhaps I can sneak away and take in some type of service close by. Stay tuned….