Mystery Worshipper: PolkaPierogie
Location: York, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 21 February 2010, 11:00am
The church meets at Club 19, a small all-ages nightclub on Duke Street. One enters through a pair of glass doors at the end of a cinderblock-walled passageway. The passageway is covered by a large Club 19 sign, under which is a smaller sign reading "Welcome to Actionchurch." Inside, there are rows of metal folding chairs, plus some small round tables set up on the floor, with metal folding chairs around them. You half expect a cocktail waitress to come out to take your order. There is also a stage, with all the lighting fixtures and sound equipment associated with rock concerts. I understand that Actionchurch is currently looking for other venues.
The founders of Actionchurch, Don and Michele Record, began promoting their idea of "church for people who don't like church" in 2007. By autumn of that year, they were able to gather a small group of like-minded worshipers at, of all places, a night club. Word spread with the help of a local radio station, and Actionchurch soon moved to its present venue. They hold fast to the two great commandments as put forth by Jesus: Love God and love your neighbor. Recently, after a heavy snow storm, the congregation used their worship time to help folks in the neighborhood shovel snow.
York is a small city in south central Pennsylvania founded in 1741 and named after its English counterpart. The city is home to a large Harley-Davidson motorcycle factory. The popular candy known as the York Peppermint Patty (which is now made by Hershey) was for years made at a local facility. The downtown area is noted for several well-preserved historical buildings. Club 19 is on the edge of the city limits in a "small town feel" area of medium-sized single and duplex homes, along with a few small factories and warehouses.
Don Record, pastor. A different band plays each week, with Delaware-based Between Blue providing the music for this service.
What was the name of the service?It doesn't have an official a name, but mostly just gets referred to as "worship" or "Actionchurch Sunday."
How full was the building?
About half full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, but that's my fault, as I was running late and arrived after the band had already started playing.
Was your pew comfortable?
What you'd expect metal folding chairs to feel like. There was also a padded bench along one wall.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I was running late and got there after things had already gotten under way.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Don wanted me to say that today's message will be about loving people."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Scriptural texts were projected; I believe these were from the New Living Translation.
What musical instruments were played?
Between Blue used (at various times) keyboards, acoustic guitars, an electric guitar, bass guitar, maracas, handclaps, snare drum, floor tom and a conventional drum set.
Did anything distract you?
This church does draw mostly a young, hip, attractive crowd, so I did had to refocus my attention on the pastor from time to time.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy, but without congregational singing. A different band plays each week. The music is usually (though not always) Christian alt-rock. Between Blue describes themselves as "alternative/indie" and includes the following in their promotional literature: "We only wish to serve our God and, just as importantly, you. We don't want this to be a show. This a ministry experience... We want to simply share the joy we have that comes with our music. We would call it the joy of Christ, but you can just call it joy and we'll be okay with that."
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Pastor Don's style was conversational. He focused on one or two main points and gave action steps to practice during the week.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was the second part of a series called "With All My Heart," further described as "loving God, loving people, and turning the whole world upside down." This week's message was based on Acts 2:42-47 (the number of believers grew as they gave to the needy, met, and broke bread) and Acts 6:1-7 (the apostles chose those who would minister to the Grecian Jews). The pastor talked about the inevitability of conflict, even with people we love, and the necessity of resolving those conflicts positively and compassionately. Our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is permanent and requires our emotional commitment. We should be buyers, not renters.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon was insightful and practical, the prayer was short and punchy, and the music rocked.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having grown up in a liturgical church, I found it hard at first to adjust to the lack of congregational singing and participation. The non-traditional nature of this service is probably a weakness as well as a strength.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People started taking down the chairs and tables and cleaning up the club.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Dunkin Donuts and coffee.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I felt kind of passive throughout the service. I think I'd be more comfortable with a greater degree of participation by those attending.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. Pastor Don emphasizes the weekly service as preparation for serving God by serving people.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The concept of being buyers rather than renters.