Sunday #47– Gateway Fellowship Church – 11505 Texas 1604 Loop (Theatre #9, Silverado 16), San Antonio
Why this church?
Shortly after I started this journey, I read an article about startup churches that utilize the comfort of movie theatres for services. One San Antonio news source quoted a Dallas-based Christian research group last year, saying that an estimated 250 churches meet in movie theaters throughout the United States. I know of four of those in San Antonio and there may be many more. By choosing a theatre, versus an elementary school, a startup church removes a few of the frustrations in temporary facilities, such as:
- No need to stack chairs – everyone in attendance has a great seat
- Sound is not a problem – acoustics are great
- No need to bring your own large screen – screens don’t get much bigger than at a movie theatre
Running a few minutes behind, I stepped into the theatre and four people immediately greeted me. When I asked where to go for the service, one young woman pulled me over to fill out the visitor information, saying it would save me time in the service. She then handed me a red bag of stuff. Inside, I found a glass with the Gateway logo. That’s a first.
This young woman walked me over to the right theatre and I walked up into the room as everyone was standing and singing with the 6-member band, which included one cello – also a first for a rock-type church band. I found a prime seat near the front of the second set of chairs and right in the middle.
<<Where was this seat when I went to see Intersteller a few weeks back?>>
As the band finished the first song, we stood while the worship leader announced that the Communion would be passed around. I’m glad I didn’t miss this part, because this is something to talk about. While Communion is normally handed out from silver trays, this method was more like drive-thru Communion. A few weeks ago, Harvest Bible Chapel introduced me to a new expedited way to serve Communition, with the cup of grape juice sitting on top of another cup that held a cracker; this Communion took that idea one step further. We receved a little plastic cup and once everything was passed out, the lead band member said a few words and then we were instructed to peel back the first layer. There I found a small wafer. After taking that, the band leader told us to peel back the second layer to uncover the grape juice.
From there, we remained standing for the second song, then the prayer, and finally the meet and greet section of the service. After shaking hands with those around me, we were asked to sit. Two people then came up to the front to give the church announcements. I’d already been to the church website and learned that the church is in building mode and making plans for moving from the theatre into their own building. During the announcements, I learned that the church is focused on providing a place for special needs kids, so they feel welcomed in church. That’s a wonderful outreach and kudos for doing so, Gateway Fellowship. I also liked that this church has a place online where they provide a list of missionaries supported monthly, as well as the programs they support. That gives viewers and worshipers a sense that the church is making things happen in their community and around the world.
Then came the offering. While small black trash cans were passed (I really hoped to see those plastic popcorn containers from the 70s that look like bags of popcorn), a preview of today’s sermon ran on the overhead screen – Letters from Jesus.
The teaching pastor, instead of the senior pastor gave gave today’s sermon. He wore jeans and a shirt, with the tail out – pretty typical for non-denominational churches these days. He also sported a very long, bushy red beard.
For some reason, I had great difficulty listening to the sermon based on the book of Revelation. Perhaps it was due to the subject matter, but I had this inability to take my focus off his beard. Later, my son told me that this habit of focusing on something out of the norm is an evolutionary protection mechanism we all have. Hunter/Gatherers needed to be alert to differences in the landscape in order to spot danger. A felt so much better after talking to him, because it really bugged me that I couldn’t focus on what the pastor said and instead, kept fixating on his beard.
Finally, we stood for prayer and then heard the worship leader sing. This song was the best part of the whole service. The man has a beautiful voice and this song was lovely.
I tried not to move around too much during this quieter time. It’s a move theater and guess what’s underfoot in a movie theater? Yep, residual soda pop spilled during the previous night. My shoes kept sticking to the floor and making sounds if I lifted them off the floor, so I stood, stuck in place. After one last song from the band, we were dismissed.
I walked out of the service to the smell of popcorn. YUM! Then got a chuckle as I looked to my left and saw all these church members standing around in the bar before the next service.
While I didn’t get much from the sermon, I sure enjoyed the people. They are a happy bunch and quite friendly. If you’ve never worshiped in a movie theatre, it’s definitely different. You’ll certainly enjoy the comfort of the seat. Where could you go to church and lean back with a headrest?
Was planning to go to a Church of God church tonight, but I just learned it burned down and the service at 6pm is not tonight. Double Drats. I’ll have to double up next week. Still want to hit a Sikh service, but I’m not sure I have the right clothes.