First United Methodist Church

Posted On November 15, 2009

Filed under Religion

Comments Dropped one response


Aberdeen, S.D. Nov. 8, 2009. United Methodist.

Enthusiasm level (1 to 10, highest 10): 7 (participatory mainstream protestant congregation)

Average age of congregation: Many white, fluffy heads mixed with young families

Serves donuts/coffee: Yes! Thanks to Dennis and Mary Kautz’s 35th wedding anniversary

Dressy Attire: jeans galore

Believes in Hell: yes

Sermon quote: “The world is on fire. It is collapsing around us.”

I feel vaguely uncomfortable when people pray aloud for me.

This week, I returned to my hometown in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and joined my parents at my childhood church, First United Methodist Church. It’s a hybrid of historical brick and beautiful Tiffany stained-glass windows, dwarfed by a large stone addition of spacious new classrooms, a gym and kitchen.

I sat in a bare, open classroom with my parents at their Sunday school class, when the group leader asked for members to offer their joys and concerns for the morning prayer. My presence was a joy, said my mother (gosh, thanks Mom!). So the group prayed for me and my safe trip home. Luckily, everyone had their head down so they couldn’t see the look on my face, where I’m sure I conveyed a juxtaposition of pleasant contentment and don’t-waste-your-breath skepticism.

After the class, we trekked over to the church’s sanctuary for the service.

The church has changed a lot from when I was a kid. Above the pulpits, on either side, projectors beam onto walls with lyrics of praise songs, inspirational images and sometimes a video. No matter how far we progress with technology, this always seems like an anachronism to me.

This week’s “video scripture” portrayed the Biblical figure Stephen yelling at Jewish leaders about their “uncircumcised hearts and ears.”  This mentally-disturbing image was made all the more bizarre by the thought that someone turned this speech into a video (don’t worry, they didn’t illustrate an uncircumcised heart, which I hear are less hygienic). The hostile Stephen, with a sheet draped over his head, spattered angry insults at the scowling, ugly men surrounding him in the temple.

Then, the pastor delivered his angry, scowling, fire-and-brimstone sermon. The pastor I remember from my childhood, who was kind, a gifted singer, moderate, non-judgmental and even defended Harry Potter, was utterly enraged. Like me and many others in the country, he seemed to be struggling to understand why a man would spray bullets on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.

His message was like a question: Is America being punished? For allowing men and men to marry, for gang violence, for the greed that brought down our financial system.

“As a Christian, we are at war with all religions of the world,” he said, after giving a quick warning that what he said would not be politically correct.

“They seek to degrade Christ… and replace him with another.”

(For those of you who check his sermon online, this line is not in there. But I wrote it down in my notes)

I left the sermon in silence, too shaken by it to comment to my parents. We went home and ate toast, with fried eggs dropped into the middle.

I realized that I’m much more comfortable with someone praying for me, rather than preaching like that.


One Response to “First United Methodist Church”

  1. Peter

    You need to come to St Paul, MN and check out some of the churches for me. Maybe the Swedenborgian Church (they are very friendy, gray and serve food), the Cathedral, the Greek Orthodox Church, etc.

    I am enjoying the scouting- keep it up.

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