As part of my Gospel Mission I class, we had to visit a church of a different denomination in small groups. My small group got assigned to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th street, on the South Side of Chicago. There were four people in the group, and we split it up. 2 went to the morning service and two of us (including myself) went to the evening 6PM service.
Having only been to one Congregationalist service before, it was quite different. It was quite the charismatic service, although there was no speaking in tongues. It was sort of odd, as it felt evangelical in a sense, and they had an "altar call." I did not know UCC people did that sort of thing.The music was quite loud, but well done. About what you would expect from a truly African church. By African, I don't mean necessarily African-American, I mean real African, most were immigrants or 1st generation descendants of immigrants. So, needless to say, they had beautiful colors and african garb in the women's choir that we got to see. There was more people in that choir than at our entire seminary. Apparently they have 4 other choirs, each with over 100 people actively participating.
This was certainly a "mega-church." Check out the website, and look at their ministries pages. There is like over 60 different groups. I, personally, don't care much for mega-churches because they are too big and people fall through the cracks. Its been my experience that pastoral care is usually squat when its that big because you essentially become a number. But, obviously, the gospel is thriving there because they not only had an overflow room downstairs where people could watch the action on TV, but and overflow-overflow room, when the overflow room was full. And apparently, on high days like Easter, they have to use it.
I enjoyed the music, being a jazz fan, but I was dismayed at the sermon. It was full of political invective and innuedo, comparing the United States to Ancient Rome, and insinuating that Bush was akin to Herod (which was the gospel reading). I knew it was downhill when the first words out of the pastor's mouth, after reading the gospel of Matthew 2, was to reemphasize Herod was "infuriated." The sermon had the tone of a black panther meeting or something. But the infective didn't stop at Republicans or the Establishment...the sermon took on a paranoid tone with the pastor decrying, "Some of your haters look just like you...Some of your haters sit on the same pew." They were actually handing out Vote for Obama Barrack, democrat for congress fliers after the service. Frankly, being someone who tries desperately to keep petty partisan politics out of Church, as I believe Christ transcends politics, I was quite unhappy with the whole politically tone.
But the folks were real nice. Me and my fellow classmate (the only two white boys in the entire building of about 1000 people) could not possibly have looked more like a couple of honkies, as we were wearing dress white shirts and ties. Despite being a good ole boy, luckily, I was not the one with blond hair and blue eyes. One person actually thought we were a pair of Mormons...hahahaha. It was an interesting adventure (do I have any other kind?) but I doubt I would consider going back.