Church Week 13, Failure and Frustration
When you travel to a strange town, it can be difficult to know which way is up, let alone North. Being aware of this, I found an appropriate church (Wesleyan), then studied a paper map and brought up directions on MapQuest. Since I'd be riding a bike, I wrote them down. Low risk, low tech.
First, let me throw Illinois under the bus. First street is 92 is the Rock Island Expressway, but then becomes 42nd street. So it's Obama's fault. He's from Illinois. No, it's Bush's fault. B. O. inherited it.
Whatever. I decided to GPS it on my fancy Droid phone. Plan B. The GPS hadn't worked, but I had taken it into Verizon and the guy pushed four buttons in three seconds and it appeared like magic.
I found the app, and the clever phone allowed me to speak the destination. I did. The screen read, 'GPS is Disabled. Show screen settings?' Like Pavlov’s dog, except instead of drooling, I growled. Here we go again. I pushed 'yes', because it won't let me do anything else. So why ask me? The next screen is the settings screen, which is Droid Hell, where you can wallow in the mire of 'settings' for hours and not get out. I tossed the phone in the trunk and resorted to Plan C, ride around until I found a church, my spirit dark with anger and frustration.
A huge limestone behemoth blocked out the sun. First United Methodist Church, founded in 1833, the first church in Rock Island. Or it was Two Rivers United Methodist. Both signs graced the front of the place. Worship at 9:30 and Sunday School at 10:45. Rats. Oh well, I'm five minutes early for Sunday School. I walked to what looked like the main entrance (you know, the big door in the center, facing the street) and it was locked. Couldn't see anyone inside. Plenty of cars in the parking lot. Hmm. I walked around to the side door. Locked. Inside, a man walked by and opened the door. Kept his hand on it and blocked it.
"Can I help you?"
"Yeah, I'm here for Sunday School at 10:45, right?"
"No, we start it again in the fall."
"Oh. I'm just traveling through-"
"We start it again in the fall."
And he shut the door.
I couldn't believe it.
"Say, would you like a cup of coffee or something? Come on in." Anything!
Apparently it's a country club and an exclusive one at that.
Back at the bike, I started gearing up and a seventy something lady initiated conversation. The bike initiated it actually. She confirmed it, no Sunday School, and said they used to have two services, but now just one. Well, maybe if they unlocked the doors...
I rode to the next church, across the street. 'The Word Church.' It started at ten. Not going in forty-five minutes late.
Next, Word of Life Christian. 10. Then an Anglican Church, 10. 'Come see what an alternative lifestyle really is' graces their sign. Didn't Henry VIII start the Anglicans so he could go to church and be divorced? His way of saying 'oh yes I can' to the Catholic Church.
I rode past four other churches all too late for me to attend. Two Catholic
Churches were within two blocks of one another. Another couple of blocks and three churches stood, boarded up, closed.
And now, my Rant.
First the church, which is made up of people. What kind of person would block a locked door and encourage someone to leave? Of all the people I've met on this trip, this guy was the least friendly. Note, I didn't say unfriendly. But come on! Smile and offer the stranger something, anything.
When I've worked for my son Tim in his landscape materials yard, people would come by at five, closing time. I would help them for as long as it took. And that is selling rocks. We're talking about people's souls here. Eternity. How can a 179 year old church continue to survive if they don't reach out to people? Or is it an exclusive country club? I'm afraid that may be the case. Perhaps they don't know what to do when a stranger stops by. That's even worse.
Now about the locked doors. I grew up knowing a church to be a sanctuary. Not just to worship God, but sanctuary. A person in trouble could run into a church any time and they would help them. And naughty people wouldn't think of violating a house of God. Now they have to lock it up to stop vagrants, vandals and thieves from desecrating the place. What a sad commentary on our culture. The three closed churches? The downtown area appeared to be deteriorating, but not at the speed of the churches. A building here and there sat empty or for sale, but three churches seemed like a lot. You could call it urban sprawl, where the people (and their money) move to the suburbs, but the suburbs had few churches.
Today's Church Surch ended in a bust as far as finding an active service. But what an eye opener.