Sunday #38 – Northside Church of Christ, 19818 Hwy 281 North, San Antonio, TX
Why this church?
I put this denomination off for a good while because thoughts of worshipping in a church that uses no musical instruments didn’t exactly thrill me. Yes, all the music is sung Acappella.
With that said, the faith always held some curiosity, especially since one of my college sorority sisters, Debra Maffett went to a Church of Christ church and also had a great voice. Later, her talent, along with her great body, personality and looks enabled her to win the 1983 Miss America crown. I always wondered whether growing up in a church without musical instruments would make you a better singer. After today, I see how it could..
Can’t say enough about signage. I knew about where this church was located, but being set off the road a bit, I wasn’t quite sure where to turn. While clipping along Highway 281 North, I missed the turn. Looping back around is not an easy task, so I immediately wished the church had provided more signage along the highway. Signs are there at the entrance, but visitors are on it before having a chance to turn.
Once inside the church campus, visitors will find many entrances. I wound up coming to the handicapped parking and parked near that area, then couldn’t decide where I should enter. Fortunately, two people walking by guided me in.
The building has a similar set up (just on a smaller scale) to Oak Hills Church – lots of meeting areas, great places for the kids to play and lots of people milling about. I found the worship center pretty quickly and watched kids as they reached for their favorite cloth “busy bag” on a wooden tree just outside the sanctuary doors. What a cool idea! Kids sure liked it.
Then, I went to the restroom. I mention that only because as I entered the restroom, the church service had just begun. How did I know that? –Because the church pipes the auditorium sound into the restrooms. Cool idea number two!
Once finished washing my hands, I walked into the large center while the “2-Minute Warming” was going on. During this aptly named time, people left their seats to shake hands, greet visitors and tell everyone around them hello. Another cool idea! How many creative ideas can one church come up with?
After the 2-Minute Warming, everyone stayed standing while the music appeared on the two large overhead screens. I’ve seen this disposal of hymn books for overhead projection of songs at many churches, but it’s usually just the words that appear – never the scored music. That really helped — at least for those of us who read music.
As I looked around the congregation, I noticed the attire to be wide spread, from jeans to three-piece suits. The racial makeup was equally broad, with many African Americans singing, along with Hispanics in the crowd of small children to the elderly and everything in between.
For the second and third songs, we were asked to sit.
<<Love this church already!>>
What’s neat about their approach to music is that different people in the congregation hold microphones and sing the various bass, soprano and alto parts, so it’s easy to follow the music. And, the congregants all sing. I kind of enjoyed being in a service where the congregation doesn’t just stand there humming while a band sings atop their own worldly stage. In this church, everyone sings and it sounds GOOD!
As I sat for the next song, I gazed at the simple design of the building that included a single wooden cross that hung over the baptismal font. When the song ended, we were then led in prayer.
Lord’s Supper and My Great Gluttony Faux Pas
One thing I like that many church websites to do is to include a “What to Expect” page. I read this one first, but one important little tidbit had been left out. As the deacons passed out the “bread” from row to row, I took the brass plate from the woman a few seats down from me and grabbed a rectangle of what tasted like stale Styrofoam, leaving two pieces in the tray, then I passed the bread on to the person at my left, I saw her pick up the cracker and break off a small piece, then put it in her mouth.
Guess I was supposed to break the bread instead of taking a whole piece. <oooops>
Then, we continued to sing while the deacons passed out the wine — in grape juice form.
By the time we get to the next song (can’t even remember the number of songs we sung), I’m really into the music sans instruments. During “How Great is God,” the leader had all the basses stand to start the song, then a call for anyone singing soprano to stand, then altos. It truly was a great song, sung in an unusual way that put everyone in the mood for the message.
Visiting pastor Jack Evans, Jr. of Fort Worth, TX gave the message. As the author of “What’s Love Got to do with it?” and “Trouble in the Hood” ambled to the stage in a dark, three-pieced suit, I figured quickly that we were all in for a gospel delivery treat.
Evans, who had recently been to Jamaica and become enamored with the accent, spoke on the topic “No problem, Mon.” He started by saying that even the atheist needs God, then launched into the story about an atheist man who denied God most of his life. One day the Atheist was out enjoying the woods when a bear came out of nowhere and started after him. The atheist climbed higher and higher in the tree while the bear stood below. As the man reached the top of the tree waiting for the bear to start his ascent, he cried out to the Lord and said, “I know I haven’t believed in you God, but I do now. Please save me. Please make this bear a Christian bear, God.” Suddenly, the bear crossed his paws in front of him and started growling the words: Heavenly Father, thank you for the meal I’m about to receive.
Preaching from below the Lucite lectern centered on the stage, Evans rolled from one biblical story to the next – all in illustration of the fact that with God “it’s no problem, mon.” He first talked about Hezikiah, then Elijah, Elisha, Shaddrach, Meshach and Abednego then ended with the story of Jonah and the whale. Throughout his lively delivery and prompts for more audience participation, Evans quoted memorized scripture after scripture and at one point I thought he might completely recite one of the lesser-known books of the Bible from memory. His memory was just that good, and even better than the pastor I’d heard while visiting the Pentecostal Hope Center Church.
He ended by leading into the altar call where we stood and sang.
Finally after a few brief announcements, the Shepherd’s Prayer was said for those grieving, then we all had a special musical treat from a group of summer touring Southwestern Christian University students who sung the parting song.
Post Meeting Thoughts
Sometimes churches surprise me and this one sure did. Not only with all the unique and creative ideas found within, but also how I enjoyed the music and felt while everyone sang. An Acapella service is one that should definitely be tried. I think you’d even be amazed – though I’m still wondering how the Wedding March is sung in Church of Christ weddings. By the way, I just learned that Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” – created for Shakespeare’s “Mid Summer Night’s Dream” – was first used for Queen Victoria’s oldest child’s wedding in 1858.
Happened to drive by a beautiful building after the Baha’i Faith meeting a few weeks ago. It’s a church that had been on my list, though I didn’t quite know its location. When I started this journey, I was told that I should take in one of the mission churches around San Antonio. Then, I happen to run across it. Not two days later, I visited a new hairdresser and she mentioned she (by accident) went to the Spanish service instead of the English version at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. That settled it; even though I’d already attended St. Mary Cathedral in Austin earlier in the year, I’ve yet to take in an all-Spanish service. Let’s see if my four years of college Spanish will help me have anything to say next week. May be a photo-filled blog! photos!