Around here, at least, you're hot property if you're church shopping. My first Sunday in town I went to the Episcopal parish, a "missionary" congregation too small to support a full-time priest. The large sanctuary was empty except for a handful of mostly gray-haired worshippers. At coffee time after the service everyone was friendly to an almost desperate extent, dropping unsubtle hints about my coming back the next week. For lunch I was taken out to one of the more expensive restaurants in town, a Japanese steakhouse, by a taciturn doctor and his voluble wife. Later that week, I received separate visits at work from both the church organist and one of the supply priests from the university town down the highway.
My ecclesiastical preferences are ranked as a function of "high" churchmanship (excluding Roman Catholic and Orthodox, which impose too many doctrinal innovations de fide
), and so the next week I visited my second choice, the Lutheran church. The flock was larger, but only a little younger, than the Episcopal. I again received a sales call, this time from a layman who dropped by my place one evening to entice me back to the church with a promise of potlucks prepared by German farmers' wives. He also gave me a coffee mug with the parish logo printed on the front and "Jesus Loves Me" on the back. Finally, I received a friendly letter from the pastor describing the various opportunities at the parish.
The next step down the liturgical/sacramental scale is Presbyterianism, so this morning I went PCUSA. There was a definite drop in solemnity (or stuffiness, if you like), with fewer prayers and readings, a longer sermon, and no Eucharist. I also attended Sunday School, and while the topic and format were interesting, one of the more outspoken members was saying things hardly Christian about our bodies being part of God, Australian aborigines having the power of telepathy, and the chronological priority of Goddess worship. My supervisor and her husband, members of the church, were kind enough to buy me lunch at one of this town's many Mexican restaurants.
I've enjoyed the attention I've received during this time, but I haven't been very thrilled with the churches themselves. I miss the Episcopal churches I used to attend, where the liturgies were well-done and young adults were well-represented. I think most of the students at our college who are church-goers are either Baptist or Catholic, both of which are unappealing, for different reasons. I have considered some sort of typically American pragmatic solution--say, alternating from week to week between the Episcopal church (for the sacrament) and a larger church (for the socializing). Such is the challenge posed by the modern fragmentation of Christianity.
This was a ho-hum, though not unpleasant, weekend. On Friday I went to an all-you-can-eat fish fry with one of my coworkers. Yesterday I gave my place a long overdue cleaning, and then hopped in the car and zipped down the highway through the cotton fields to the Big City, a forty-five minute drive at legal speeds. At the mall I bought a shirt and got a trim at MasterCuts. The middle aged Hispanic man who cut my hair was an unusual character. He told long, hard to understand, possibly false, but definitely entertaining stories about helping the police uncover various scams. In one episode, he went to work for a storage company for six months until he could prove that the owner was stealing customers' property; in another, he plied a couple with drinks until their tongues were loosened and they admitted to defrauding the Texas State Lottery. He asked if I was married, and said "You won't stay single for long if you hang around this town long enough. Lots more women than men here." I couldn't tell that was true from the demographics of the mall-walkers, but we'll see.
I picked up some code from the web which supposedly allows readers to submit comments, so let's put that beneath this sentence and see if it works. Not that I'm assuming I actually have any readers, mind you. With a million blogs on blogspot alone, and no search function, I can't imagine anyone coming across this page. The information age has made it easy for anyone to get published, but getting read remains difficult.