Yesterday I did my congregation visit at Redlands United Church of Christ, and brought along my friend Zayda for moral support. She and I have very different religious backgrounds, and I didn’t realize how much that would affect our individual takeaways from the service.
I am used to attending a conservative synagogue, where services mainly consisted of traditional prayers in Hebrew and interpreting part of the Torah. From my point of view, the service was very laid back and fairly secular: Those attending the service dressed casually– there were no ties or dresses in sight. A couple of hymns were chanted, but the majority of songs were about love rather than about Jesus, and even written by popular artists like The Beatles and John Lennon– I would never hear their voices at my temple. The church’s ideology seemed to be focused around acceptance of everyone, like Jesus, but again, G-d and Jesus were hardly mentioned directly. The sermon wasn’t even about an explicit bible story, which baffled me.
Zayda’s religious experience was very different from mine– her family attends a nondenominational church, where services are very lively, often beginning with a near-concert, and singing along to songs about Jesus is crucial. In contrast to my experience, she described the service as very formal and “churchy”. The first difference she noticed was that they sat in pews– while comfortable to me, she was used to worshipping in chairs and felt very exposed. She found the fact that aside from two hymns the congregation didn’t sing along very traditional, and even expressed that the chanting of any hymns was unheard of in her place of worship.
If Zayda hadn’t accompanied me, I would not have realized that anyone might consider the RUCC service “traditional”. Before this experience I was unaware of how different modern, progressive churches could be in such a small geographic area.