Mystery Worshipper: G
Church: Urban Village Church
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 November 2011, 10:30am
The church actually meets in a nursing home building. There is a side door that leads almost directly to the sanctuary, so I didn't know it was a nursing home immediately. But I did wonder why there were security guards standing around.
They appear to minister predominantly to the young childless crowd. Almost everyone there seemed between the ages of 20 and 40, although the woman next to me was probably in her 50s. I saw only a couple of children besides my daughter. This congregation is a brand-new church plant. In fact, we attended their seventh service.
Andersonville is one of Chicago's more interesting and lively neighborhoods. Clark Street tends to feel like the center of the area with its commercial district. But we were a couple of blocks off Clark, so it was more residential, and not quite as pretty. Still, the whole neighborhood has a wonderful atmosphere, and I would love to live there.
Brittany Isaac, associate pastor, led the service. A gentleman who identified himself as "Scott, Holy Terror" helped with parts of it. Cody Schuler, church planting intern, presided over communion.
What was the name of the service?Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
Very full. We were probably two minutes late, and would not have found three seats together if a kind woman had not scooted over so that my daughter could have her own seat. I would guess 100 in attendance.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted by an extremely efficient and polite ushering team, who made sure I found my way into the sanctuary and then asked if I would like to make a name tag in whatever color I liked.
Was your pew comfortable?
We sat in folding chairs, but they were padded, and I found mine extremely comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lively! We sang contemporary style worship songs with a praise band until the service started.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, Urban Village Church! It's good to see you. Is this thing working?" That was a reference to the mike.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
We did not use anything besides a bulletin. All songs and scripture were screened on an overhead projector.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar, and drums.
Did anything distract you?
Before the passing of the peace, it was mentioned that although children are welcome in worship, there is also a Sunday school for any who want to participate. My daughter did, so we walked through a bit of the nursing home to where the classes were. Getting back, I almost got lost, because the nursing home decor was all the same and foreign to me. When I found my way back to the sanctuary, a testimony was in progress, half over, so I was definitely distracted from that. Also by the praise band, but I will complain about that a few questions down.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I'd call it seeker-friendly Christian contemporary; very pared down order of worship, praise band, and easy to sing songs. Also, anything that might not be universally accessible was subtly explained, so that no one would feel left out.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – It was a decent sermon, but it jumped around a bit too much. Also, I don't think I ever quite got over hearing OMG in a sermon title, and in a sermon. The actual title was "OMG: Experiencing the Wonder and Weirdness of Christmas."
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon began with an overly long discussion of the way popular culture looks forward to the end times. After thoughts on why the world is so interested in predicting the end times so many frustrating problems in our world the pastor moved on to a metaphor that compared our souls to our houses. Don't let your house be dirty when guests come, or your soul dirty when Christ comes. Unfortunately, after a very very brief Advent challenge, the sermon ended without sufficient discussion of how to clean one's soul.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I quite enjoyed the fact that even in this relatively pop service, the pastor followed the lectionary, quoted Martin Luther, and seemed in touch with Christian tradition. Even more so, it was very refreshing to be in a very liberal church that was not ashamed of the gospel.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I'm not a fan of praise bands in the first place, but I do understand that some people like them, and so I am willing to put aside my personal tastes. However, when the guitar started to strum very loudly and obstreperously before the last hymn, I turned and asked my husband, jokingly, if I could flee. Moments later when the song was announced, "Ode to Joy," I happily took part, but the loud guitar did not stop. I wanted to tell him to shush, but my husband suggested that attacking the guitar or the player might not be greatly appreciated on my first visit.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At first I had trouble getting lost, because I unexpectedly ran into a couple of friends. However, after I left, explaining that I needed to go look lost, I quickly was greeting by the children's education director, who filled me in on the children's program.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
As a non-coffee drinker, I cannot speak to the quality of the coffee, but there were store-bought bagels (good quality) and cream cheese, which were excellent. There were also some donuts, apparently left over from before service, and tiny sandwiches, which my husband spoke well of. No vegetarian sandwiches, though, which surprised me considering the crowd. As my husband pointed out, maybe there will be some once the church isn't so very new.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – The church isn't really my worship style, but the people seemed great, their message is something I believe in, and they are clearly all about serving Christ by serving their fellow people.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I am very very glad that we have such churches. The number of people present made it clear that we have great need for seeker-friendly contemporary styled churches that still believe in the gospel.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Singing "It's the end of the world as we know it" in church.