My family attended church at The Garden Sunday in Indianapolis, IN. It is a "blossom" of St Lukes United Methodist church, which I attended my first Easum-Bandy conference at. I was excited to see the future.
We arrived at the Beef and Boards dinner theater at 9:40 for the 10:15 service. We waited a bit in the lobby and then about 10:04 we got in and the seating was a half circle of tables surrounding the stage. We weren't uncomfortable because we are used to sitting around tables. We sat at two side by side tables of four. We had six in our family including my mom. I quickly spotted the donuts and coffee, though there was no sign indicating their presence, availability or price. My son was thirsty so my mom and I along with my daughter made our way over. My assumption was that they were free because ours are free. Then I started to worry because I had no money on me. They were free but you could leave a donation. You could have a donut or bagel, and juice or coffee. There weren't many kids in the service. We headed back for our seats.
The service started with a video clip from the movie Michael. John Travolta is sitting in the back of the car playing Car Bingo. He ends by saying something about the importance of laughter. The Good Earth Band opened with Beginnings. The song sounded familiar to me but I couldn't exactly place it. There was a horn section but was being played on one of two keyboards that didn't look overly expensive, but had a decent sound. Looking at the announcement sheet, the song was recorded by Chicago.
When I'm with you, it doesn't matter where we are
Or what we're doing. I'm with you, that's all that matters
Time passes much too quickly when we're together laughing
I wish I could sing it to you, oh no
I wish I could sing it to you
Mostly I'm silent
Never think about words to say
When I kiss you, I feel a thousand different feelings
The color of chills all over my body
And when I feel them, I quickly try to decide which one
I should try to put into words, oh no
Try to put into words
Mostly I'm silent
Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever
Only the beginning. Only just the start
I've got to get you into my life
Got to get you next to me
Only the beginning. Only just the start
An interesting choice, but it was given no context. You couldn't really sing along even though the lyrics were on the screen. The quality was excellent.
There were four songs total: Beginnings by Chicago, Laughing Matters by Bette Midler, Happy Girl by Martina McBride, and Got to Be Me by Point of Grace -- four totally different styles but all done very well and by three different lead singers. But I admit it was still hard to get the point, even with the "Christian" song.
As the "worship leader" started with some announcements, out walked the Church Lady (from Saturday Night Live) played by a very talented, funny young man. The church lady said she heard we were talking about judgment this morning and wanted to be a part. "Oh, no we are talking about laughter this morning Church Lady," the worship leader corrected. "Well isn't that funny!" retorted the church lady. The church lady put some horns on the worship leaders head and left.
Then one of the backup singers came out on stage with his dummy Denny. Denny was going to read the Scripture that morning. The ventriloquist was another young man and not a bad ventriloquist. Before he got started though, the man who played the Church Lady came back, this time as Brother Doug Love, an obviously black, fiery preacher. He too had been asked to read the Scripture. After a bit of debate and a threat to throw the dummy into a fireplace, Brother Doug read the Scripture... actually he recited the lyrics to Jeremiah was a Bullfrog... he had some mighty fine wine... When he was done, Denny the dummy actually read the Scripture.
Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac... Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” -- Genesis 21:1-3, 6
Then a man, who looked like just a guy out of the crowd, came up and shared that he and his family really liked the church. They in fact had stayed because it was a place where you could laugh. And then he prayed with us. He seemed very nervous but genuine.
The pastor, Dr Linda McCoy, came up and spoke for about 15 minutes. She mentioned the Scripture but gave it no context except to say that Sarah knew people would laugh "with" her not at her, which is appropriate laughter. She quoted at least 10 people about laughter. She told a story of a woman who had cancer and asked God for guidance. God told her one word, "Conehead." She took it upon herself to be very silly and cheer up all those in chemotherapy. She is now cancer free and continues this ministry. She ended the message by having us spell L-A-U-G-H as a cheer and then asked us to go and do it.
The Good Earth Band finished with the Point of Grace song, then Dr McCoy came back up, the band played the little ditty that follows Bugs Bunny tunes, and then Dr McCoy said, "That's all folks!"
The quality was high for the most part. There were at least two misspellings on the screen which annoys me, especially in this high of quality an atmosphere.
I tried to digest the service over lunch. I didn't want to be quick to judge. It was new. It was cutting edge. Obviously the quality was exceptional as I remembered so much detail. I needed to know their purpose. But as I reflected, one word I never heard the whole morning was Jesus. The message was clearly "Laughter is healing." God was rarely mentioned or even alluded to. There was zero "encounter" with God. No one spoke to us so there was zero relationship. I saw in the foyer that there were building a Habitat for Humanity house, but it was in Florida, not in Indy.
The place was packed. They were meeting after the service to discuss starting a new service at a new site: the Oak Hill mansion. You could also get a flu shot next door for $18 and a pnemonia shot for $25, though they made a point that the pastor wasn't getting one.
My wife, Danelle, took the kids out about half way through the 45 minute service. The kids weren't so rowdy; I think she wanted to see the kids area. The kids area was in the next building. The room was about 10 x 15 feet. There were 10 kids, one worker, and a 4 month old baby. Toys were piled in three tubs in the middle of the room and there was a tent with tunnels set up.
Here is the vision of The Garden: The Garden is a celebration of life, a journey into faith, and a soulful embrace of all.
Here is the mission: The Garden seeks to engage all in the quest to know, to share, to discover and rediscover the divine human spirit and the unconditional love of God.
You could get your pet blessed at St Lukes at 5PM. The Labyrinth walk, which I've been doing online, is cancelled due to the setup for the Holiday Bazaar.
It seemed empty. So what is it about The Crossover that isn't empty? I wish we were known for six things: Love, Prayer, Encounter, Purity, Storytelling, and Service. I wish love for people oozed out of us every day and you could sense an acceptance and care from us. We do to a decent extent but I wish it was more. I wish we prayed for each other easily, laying a hand on a shoulder. I wish we encountered God more directly. I wish we had a great desire for our own inner purity that led us to our knees begging God to give us grace. I wish we told endless stories about how God had changed our lives in obvious ways. I wish we were humble people who loved to help others. We aren't bad at that either, but I know it could still be more.