A visit to a church like this and you can quickly grasp the concept of 'churches in decline.' For all intents and purposes the place is pretty tired looking and seemingly not on a good trajectory:
- The building's interior looks like it is straight out of the 1950's - cinderblock walls, linoleum tile floors, and windows that are opaque, cracked, and definitely not energy efficient.
- 3 of us at the 8am service (why bother?) and about 26 at the 11am
- Many of the folks are older and there are not many signs of children being present
- There's a noticable lack of energy in the worship service, the liturgy was uneven and the sermon was a very 1970's psychobabble piece - ( don't think God was even mentioned)
- Both services started late - as did the Bible study between service
But even with all the potential barriers and pitfalls this church had an amazing edge to it unlike any Episcopal church I've ever been in: It was diverse: Racially, educationally, economically, and age-wise. The later service reflected about 50% Anglo; 45% African American; and 5% Asian. Almost every age demographic was represented - minus teens and 20's. There were a couple of Harvard grads and a couple of folks who had barely finished high school.
And beyond that: The people were genuinely friendly, warm and welcoming but not pushy or needy. The music surprisingly in a place this size was very good - a wonderful young woman who played piano, organ and led the choir. And they are located in a prime area for growth: densely populated area of Northern Virginia in the DC suburbs.
This is the kind of place that can really capture my imagination and stir my soul in a way that few churches do. When that happens I am forced to ask not "What do they think they're doing?" but "Do they wonder and have they noticed what God is doing here?"