Kingdom Ministries

Posted On January 24, 2010

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The church is housed in an old building with the words "First Evangelical Church" inscribed in stained glass.

Kingdom Ministries. Dubuque, Iowa. January 17. 2010.

Enthusiasm level (1 to 10, highest 10): 10

Average age of congregation: younger crowd (many young adults and children in attendance)

Serves donuts/coffee: the KFC (Kingdom Food Court) sells burgers and chips for $2 after the service

Dressy attire: business casual

Believes in Hell: Most likely.

Sermon quote: “Everything you do in the flesh, you’re going to get a fleshy result.”

In order to break our extended church-scouting hiatus, we decided to go for the theatrical. A two-hour, high-volume service ending in a climactic speaking-in-tongues session.

Kingdom Ministries has no sign on the outside. The old church building has an empty message board, and stained glass above the door reads “First Evangelical Church.”

As soon as I approached, I heard music and singing, and a man popped his head out the front door. “You coming in?” he asked, smiling.

After several energetic songs, the pastor stood up to deliver her sermon in a long, pink and black robe. Her voice danced between a low, serious tone and shrill screaming into the microphone. She shared her experiences with drugs and alcohol (overcome by Jesus, she says) and extolled the danger of visiting a particularly notorious bar in the city, where one would be tempted to go drinking and dirty dancing.

Her sermon focused on the Holy Spirit, which would guide you to great things, should you stop shutting out the Holy Ghost.

Stacey became a little squeamish when the Pastor began to preach about a Biblical metaphor of dry bones. Those who are composed of ‘dry bones’ don’t have a soul because they haven’t let the Holy Spirit into their lives. In a matter of seconds, several images flashed before her eyes: the elephant graveyard with deadly hyenas from Disney’s “The Lion King” and her own flesh bursting into flames. Trust us, that doesn’t happen often. Stacey was ecstatic when no one brought out a fire extinguisher.

Near the end of her sermon (and we’d been there about one and a half hours at this point), the pastor asked someone to turn on instrumental music. As if on cue, people began to walk forward and kneel by the altar. Women were draped with a red sheet (I don’t know what it was for, modesty, perhaps?). They knelt quietly, bowing their heads.

Then, a woman began to shake. Her hands trembled and she cried out. She began to scream incomprehensibly. Courtney and Stacey sat perfectly still, unaware of how to respond. This was the first time they saw someone speaking in tongues.

In case any of you has had the misfortune of walking in on someone having sex, you might be able to relate to how awkward we felt sitting in that room. The entire church hummed with energy as people stood up, moved forward, and began to shout.

Stacey almost burst into uncontrollable laughter when she heard the pastor ask for a tissue, a bucket, anything for a wailing woman at the pew. Such an odd phrase to hear in church. When somebody actually grabbed a bucket, the guilt sunk in.

Only a few people spoke in tongues; the others shouted “praise Jesus” and “Hallelujah.” They were having an intense, spiritual, and intimate moment in front of us. The only feeling we were experiencing was a nagging question: are they knowingly faking, or are they swept up in some sort of mass hysteria?

Eventually, the cacophony died down, and the women pulled off the red sheets and returned to their pews.  Stacey and Courtney walked briskly to the door and left, leaving the rest of the day to digest what they saw. To add a little balance, Stacey and Courtney decided to attend a Unitarian Universalist church the next week.