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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

A Visit to Cornerstone Church 5/13/07

Ann and I went to a Mission District of San Francisco, contemporary church, called Cornerstone this Sunday past. Music was by electrical guitars and drums, all rocksy and rollsy. The songs, which were faintly religious, were flashed on a screen for all to see – no hymnals or prayer books or Bibles. Songs were repetitive and reflected religious notions like hallelujah, Jesus is lord, savior, friend etc. It reminded me of the repetitious black gospel music but without the passion, pain or uplifting abandon.

A young pregnant woman who shared her insights into motherhood quite thoughtfully gave the sermon. It ended on the note of “Jesus will see you through your troubles.” There was an excellent play on motherhood, its trials and tribulations. It was realistic, helpful and respectful of mothers and their vocation. It ended on the note of everything will be fine, work hard and trust in Jesus. I wondered what happens if you have been trusting in Jesus and your kid turns out to be a dope addict? Did Jesus not love you? Did you not trust Jesus enough? The theology presented was simplistic and immature.

The place was mobbed with five hundred people and we went to the middle of three services that morning. The crowd was most 20-35 years old with 100 older people like us. There may have been more older women since it was mother’s day. The service took exactly one hour a huge plus for busy and impatient people like me.

We pressed an usher and discovered they believe homosexuality and abortion are sins. They don’t mention it in their sermons or printed materials but do so in their membership classes. They offer a group for men seeking to restore their Godly sexuality. I had heard that about them before so I wasn’t even surprised. I believe it is the music that attracts the young people; the leaders were attractive, humorous and sincere. The message was that faith in jesus is simple, moral problems are seen as black and white. It is not my cup of tea for regular worship but an interesting example of contemporary religiosity.

They have a website www.cornerstone-sf.org it gives you lots of interesting information about the groups that week during the week and Sundays. It plays some of the music, which obviously has an appeal – if not for me.

Episcopalians can learn lots from Cornerstone. We were greeted warmly by a young woman who handed us the service leaflet. An usher politely showed us seats as the church was crowding up fifteen minutes before the service. Toilet facilities were well marked. Opportunities for childcare were evident. The leaflet was made of thick paper almost cardboard. It was easy to handle, not flopping over, and it was full of information for the newcomer as well as regular members. Some of the songs and most of the messages related to real life issues facing the congregation that Sunday. Mother’s Day was not celebrated in a sentimental way but in a practical manner. Groups seen to deal with every day issues of people’s lives. There was no mention of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers killed and Arabs killed and maimed. I have been in Episcopal churches where the war was not mentioned, but not many.

An usher/greeter at the door at the end of the service spotted us as newcomers and engaged us in conversation although he got uncomfortable when we asked him about the church’s position on homosexuality and abortion. But he was there to try to make us feel at home. There was no coffee hour but they could not do that and get the crowds in and out on the back-to-back services.

Principles of church growth:
Welcome newcomers who were invited not give money at the collection; clean well lighted place to pray; user friendly bulletins and liturgy; one hour service; one short reading from the Bible, not four as in Episcopal churches plus long boring Nicene Creed and wordy abstract prayers of the people; sermons and prayers relevant to people not worship of theological ideas; a theme for the service and sermon, small groups and more small groups.

I’ll go back again to hear a sermon instead of the play. Like most Episcopal churches when we got up to leave no one spoke to us except the greeter at the door whom we accosted.

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