Last month, a high school friend, Kim Bell Thibodeaux discovered my blog and subsequently asked which church had been my favorite thus far. I thought about that question as I mentally went back through them all. Then the thought struck that picking a favorite was much like picking my favorite child. Each of my children arrived at a different time; each came with different strengths and talents; and each hold a special place in my heart — just no way to have a favorite.
So, instead of trying to select the one church that is my favorite, I’d like to share what is special, or held special meaning for me with each church:
1. Crossbridge Church (non-denominational) — This, the first church I visited on the SteepleStretch journey, holds special meaning because it marked the first time I tarried into a church alone, not knowing what to expect, but being totally open to the experience. This was also my first exposure to the new approaches to worship that have developed all around the country — a church that doesn’t conform to any one denomination and has chosen a generic church name, — a church that offers music from a rock band with words highlighted on large projection screens awash in theatrical lighting, — a church that has a “come as you are” attitude toward church attire.
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Stone Oak Ward (Mormon) — I talk often about this church because this one dispelled one big preconception that I had going in — that I would be preyed upon to give up my name, address, phone and email, so a missionary could visit me later. Instead, I found a church where no one said hello, shook my hand, asked who I was, why I was there, or even said hello. I like when my ideas of things get shaken up a bit. What I most loved about this church was watching the families. They all sat together as a family and the teens held their baby brothers and sisters, stroking their hair, comforting them and generally offering this amazing demonstration of love toward their family.
3. Kendall County Cowboy Church – Boerne, TX (Cowboy Church) — This church will always have a special place in my heart because I never knew the concept existed before I began this journey and I found the idea completely fascinating. Donning my jeans and cowboy boots, I slipped into my chair and suddenly felt at home, wondering how my little home town of Nome would have embraced this concept if a Cowboy Church has blossomed in that community.
4. Cornerstone Church – San Antonio (non-denominational church with Assembly of God roots) — I walked away from this church appreciating the many services offered through its ministry, yet thinking how polarizing some church leaders can be with their stances and strong rhetoric on various social issues. This particular church helped me to understand more about myself, specifically what brings me closer to God and what type of service and message negatively affects me. Even the most negative experiences can create great personal reflection and understanding.
5. Rishho Kosei-Kai Buddhist Dharma Center – San Antonio, TX (Buddhist) — Sometimes I’m grateful for negative experiences, because they lead me to see the flip side. I count this visit as the flip side and a most memorable one at that. I loved the serenity and acceptance by all of those in attendance at this service. Before my visit, I had long appreciated the Buddhist view on “oneness” and had embraced much of the Buddhist approach to life. At the end of the service, I got to see first-hand how these people put their faith into practice and that will always remain a special memory.
6. Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church – San Antonio (Black, African American, or a church of color? – I’m still unsure of the proper way to categorize this church) — This visit will forever be fixed in my memory. As one of only….well….one white person in the group that Sunday, I felt totally welcomed and embraced in the service. I found my thoughts going back to the 1960s as a small child, visiting my grandmother’s church in Orange, TX. With everyone dressed to the nines, from dresses, hats, coats and ties, I remembered a time long ago when everyone dressed like this for church, despite the Texas heat. I found such spirit and love in this church and enjoyed learning more about the black community that made up this church. The songs of “struggle” and “overcoming” provided such commentary about past, and in many respects current, racial struggles.
7. Church Under the Bridge – San Antonio (a church with a homeless mission) — While I wish I had gone to this church years ago when the group physically held services under the highway overpasses in San Antonio, I love the fact that this church gives everything to its ultimate mission — to feed, clothe and support the area’s homeless population. Sometimes you run across a charity or non-profit organization that you know, without a doubt, is utilizing the donations to support the cause versus the overhead of the staff. This is one of those organizations, and I’m so grateful that San Antonio has people like those at Church Under the Bridge who give and give and keep on giving.
8. St. Mary Cathedral – Austin (Catholic) — I went to this church for the stained glass, but came away with tears of laughter. Sometimes you go to a church and its the people that you go with that makes the service special. In this particular instance, I went with my sister Suzanne, who always has a running commentary that keeps me in stitches. While I appreciated the ritual and reverence in this service, it was my sister who made this church service the most memorable.
9. University Presbyterian Church – San Antonio (Presbyterian) — Again, going to church with friends and family does make the service memorable and certainly, this was the case with this church. I joined family who is long time members of this particular church. However, what made this church special for me was the Sunday School class that I attended. Invited by cousin Larry, I attended his Sunday School class, which was doing a series on the criminal injustice system. The knowledge and wisdom combined in that one room provided the class a chance to hear from all sides of the issue — from an attorney working within the system, a non-profit representative who runs homes for federal inmates making the transition to non-incarcerated life and and a medical doctor who works for the Department of Defense and who had worked within the criminal justice system along the Arizona border. More people might go to Sunday School, if classes like this could be put together in other churches. Amazing!
10. Virtual Church (online church) — What could be special and memorable about this experience? For me, it was learning all the different ways in which technology allows church leaders to reach the unchurched masses — from house bound invalids to people like me who have had a weekend that left no time for attending a church. I found the message to be memorable and the experience to be interesting. I’m not sure I could go to Virtual Church Sunday after Sunday, but I’m extremely grateful for technology and the way it has been used to reach out to those who can’t attend church.
11. Trinity Baptist Church – San Antonio (Southern Baptist) — Due to the title of this blog, I’d looked forward to visiting this church to see their recently refurbished steeple. What I loved about this church was the research that led me to it and the resulting research I was able to relay about steeples. This one also brought back many memories of worship in the Baptist church years ago.
12. Hope Center Church – San Antonio (Pentecostal) — My favorite part of this church visit was battling my fear over attending. Once there, I found the people to be welcoming and the service to be interesting, though I didn’t participate in the final part where almost the entire church went to the pulpit area to lie across the stairs in prayer. I loved this churches’ use of theatrical lighting and that my idea of a Pentecostal church was so different than my experience.
13. The Church of Scientology Mission of San Antonio (Scientology) — Again, combating fear is what remains memorable about this church visit. I found the whole service rather strange, but having gone and then being able to share something about the denomination that everyone wonders about make it a memorable experience.
14. Church of Christ, Scientist — San Antonio (Christian Science) — This church service remains one of the least enjoyable for me, yet the one from which I learned the most — all from the Christian Science readers from around the world who shared their thoughts with such great depth and passion. I’ve certainly had an experience where the service wasn’t much, but the people made the difference. Yet this time I experienced something totally different. I had a lackluster service experience, but it was Christian Science readers of the blog that drew me in and made me take a second look at what has drawn people to this faith.
15. Coker United Methodist Church — San Antonio (Methodist) — This church was one of my favorite because after I wrote the blog, I heard from a neighbor in Golden, CO where I moved from who reached out to me. I had attended her childhood church, where she was married and learned that her grandfather built the church. I loved thinking about how small the world truly is by attending this service.
16. An Evening with Dr. David Jeremiah — Austin Event (Evangelist) — What made this evening special and memorable was the invitation from my sister to attend this event. From the evening, I learned what a genuine person Dr. Jeremiah is and why people are attracted to his straightforward message. I’ll never forget the post-evening conversation between me and my sister that had us laughing so hard we couldn’t drive due to the tears in our eyes.
17. The Church at Creek’s End — Spring, TX (Interdenominational) — A true favorite due to the opportunity to hear an old high school friend preach. What a great experience to see how someone you went to school with has made a difference in the lives of the people within a community. It was also great to see how someone makes the transition from being raised in one denomination and then being led to another type of worship experience.
18. Al-Madinah Mosque Children Education & Civic Center — San Antonio (Muslim) — Why a favorite? Because I saw a Muslim woman enter the local library and then asked God to meet her to answer my questions about the upcoming service I’d planned to attend. In the end, I made a great friend who helped me understand more about the Islamic faith.
19. Concordia Lutheran Church — San Antonio — (Lutheran). I’d been wanting to visit this church to see how it differed from what I’d experienced after a Lutheran wedding I’d attended years ago. As one of the largest Lutheran churches in this area, its unique cross is seen from Hwy 1604, and I really enjoyed learning more about the Missouri-Synod from one of the elders in the church.
20. Friends Meeting of San Antonio — San Antonio — (Quaker). This was a favorite because it was so different than what I expected and so different from every other church I could attend. A service in complete silence. I don’t think there is one other service that has touched me so deeply, so it will be one forever remembered.
21. First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio – (Unitarian Universalist). Some services don’t touch you, but afterwards they can knock you off your feet. That blast came from the blog comments around the country and world. Somehow this blog post got posted on another site and people began commenting from all over. I had such fun learning more about the views and opinions of the Unitarian Universalists.
22. St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church — San Antonio – (Greek Orthodox). Again, meeting someone as I entered the church who could guide me along in a service for which I had no reference was wonderful. However, what I’ll always remember from this church will be the long service that ended with a 40-day blessing for twin girls that had twin brothers following along behind the priest as he carried the girls in the crooks of both arms to the front of the church.
23. Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness, — San Antonio – (Jehovah’s Witness). Why would this be one of my favorite? Because this service was so unlike anything I imagined and then conquering my fears of going in there alone. I enjoyed the wonderful people I met while there, even though I didn’t learn much and most of it left me perplexed.
24. Oak Hills Church — San Antonio – (Thought it was Church of Christ, but it has since become non-denominational). Loved this church because of meeting a new friend there and seeing her respect and passion for their well-known pastor Max Lucado.
25. San Geronimo Chapel — Taos, New Mexico – (Catholic with a Native Indian Twist). History, history, history! Truly a site to behold in the architecture, but I think learning about how these native indians hid their spiritual traditions within the Catholic faith forced upon them was what intrigued me most.
On to the next 25!!!