Thursday, August 04, 2005

Nashville - Play Day #2

There is so much to tell about today, and I'm going to start at the beginning. {Sing: A very good place to start...}

This morning, I attended worship at River of Life church. Daryl Williams is the music director here. I sat with the associate pastor's wife and grandson. Very nice people. Before the service, we attended Sunday School. I'm used to Sunday School being for children, but down here, there is an adult class and a children's class. Everyone meets at 9am for an hour before the service. I learned later that this is a tradition that is fading in many churches because there are so many opportunities now for Christian education.

The church was very friendly. I received a lovely visitor's packet that I'm bringing home with me as a model for our church. The style of service was sort of Pentecostal. It started with some hymns, prayers, and announcements. All good. Then, they welcomed their special guest. Evangelist Nancy Harmond was there with her choir, The Mighty Warriors, to lead a 4 day mission. She's a singer, songwriter, and preacher. They started with some great songs and music. Then the choir sat down so Nancy could preach. And this is when things got interesting...

Before you read the next section: I'm going to apologize in advance to anyone who is offended by what I am about to write. I have visited many different churches, and I'm very comfortable and accepting of various forms of worship. However, this was a very new experience for me. Please take my comments as what they are - observations of a newcomer!

So, Nancy's basic message is that we must be vibrant in our praise of God. {That's cool.} She told us that we must praise God with our mouth and not simply with our thoughts. And if we praise solely with our thoughts, we are in disobedience to God. {This, I'm not totally in agreement with.} She's self-admittedly bold and in-your-face, and I think she likes it that way. She likes pushing people out of their comfort zone. Well, she'd be thrilled with me. Every comment she made, she wanted people to shout back to her in response. "Amen", "Praise God", whatever. She didn't care what they said, but she wanted it loud. And if it wasn't loud enough for her, she'd tell us to "wake up" and answer her.

She starts telling a Bible story about 4 armies in battle. She starts calling up men in the congregation to stand in place to symbolize the armies. Then, in the story, God told the choir to guard the "good" army, so she gets her choir, the Mighty Warriors, to stand up front too. Then, she tells her Mighty Warriors to start praising God. They weren't praising loud enough for her, so she gets them to start yelling. So, next in the story, the other three armies got confused and killed each other. So she gets the men in the congregation to start killing each other. Keep in mind, this is not the church drama club. These are just regular men going to church. So they start play-acting like they're killing each other. And then she tells them to lie down on the floor, cause that's what dead men do. So all these men are lying down on the floor of the church! One man sat in a chair, and she yells, "Dead men don't sit up. Lie down!" Next in the story, the "good" army plundered the dead armies, so she orders the Mighty Warriors to go to the "dead" men, and steal their riches. So they actually start taking off these men's watches and rings and piling them up in the front of the church! Eventually, she lets the men stand up and go back to their seats, leaving their jewelry up front til the end of the service.

So, I'm a little uncomfortable with re-enacting a battle scene in church, but oh! The best is yet to come. She starts talking in tongues! Maybe this happens in your church everyday, but not in mine. She starts, and then she orders her Mighty Warriors to talk in tongues, so they all look at her, reach out their arms to her, and they start taking in tongues. Then people in the congregation start talking in tongues! {NEVER experienced this in my LIFE!}

Next, she looks at the lady in front of me, and tells her she's ready for a miracle. So this women comes up front, and Nancy starts talking in tongues, til she says "Satan get out of her!" and smacks her on the head and the woman falls down. {I have since learned that this is called "slain in the spirit"}. I've been to churches where people fall down before, but nothing this loud or seemingly violent. And this just starts happening over and over, with Nancy picking people out of the crowd, and the Mighty Warriors yelling to God and talking in tongues. I start praying, "Please God, don't give me a miracle today." Cause I am not moving from my seat! When the person would fall, a Mighty Warrior would catch them, cover them with a cloth, and just leave them there shaking on the floor. So now picture this: Nancy is up front speaking in tongues and hitting people on the head. The Mighty Warriors are walking around yelling praises and catching people. The congregation is mostly standing and yelling stuff. And there are shaking people all over the floor. And I'm the quiet Anglican in the third row, unable to go anywhere cause I'm sitting with the preacher's wife.

But oh, it doesn't stop there. Next Nancy yells, "Mighty Warriors, do a little dance!" and they all start dancing. I've seen lots of dancing in church, but never on command. So add dancing to the scene above. But then it hits a high point when she tells her Mighty Warriors to run around the church for God. All her choir members put their hands in the air and start running about the sanctuary. Running! And still yelling and speaking in tongues. And then she starts pointing to people and telling them that God wants them to run too! So they would run too! Again I'm praying, "God, please don't want me to run." One older lady jumps up to run, trips, falls right down on her face, someone helps her up, and she just keeps on running. It was amazing! I've truly never seen anything like this, not even on tv. I really wanted to be there to see it all, but I would like prefered to be a fly-on-the-wall instead of an Anglican in the third row. I felt really really really uncomfortable. And I've never felt uncomfortable in a church. This was not a form of worship that I enjoyed or felt at all connected to. I have no doubt that God could hear us. I just don't think we could hear God.

After two and a half hours, an older couple stood up to leave. Nancy snapped at them to save her a place at the restaurant. The pastor, God bless him, quickly stood and ended the service. And I breathed a sigh of relieve.

I was later told that the congregation is generally pretty reserved, and that Nancy is a special guest. Some people really loved it, and some people walked out. It was a fabulous thing to witness first hand, but once is enough for me. You know, I've been in church my whole life. I'm open-minded, and I love witnessing and participating in various forms of worship. But, in my opinion, no one should feel attacked in church. If you can make me feel uncomfortable, what are you doing to someone who's new to church?

After lunch, the pastor and his wife took me out for lunch. They are awesome, generous people. We had a lovely time and great food. I told them that Dad's a priest, so we were able to compare things about our different churches, and they were great in answering questions I have about the Southern Christian churches. They welcomed me back any time, and even told me I could stay with them if I'm ever in town again. Lots of times, Mom and Dad have cared for visitors who've come to the church. I now know how comforting it can be.

This afternoon, Michaela came to stay at the hotel with me til Tuesday. It'll be good to have the company. Of course, we're still exhausted, so we dedicated a few hours to napping.

Tonight, Micheala, Tracey and I visited the legendary Bluebird Cafe. I was sent there by Gerald, and I'm so glad I was. The Bluebird is a songwriter's club. You can't perform cover tunes, or anything that's had some kind of major release. It's pretty much for new and original material only. It's an absolute dive. It's not even downtown. It's in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. The first set was a husband and wife duo. They live in the mountains, and it's reflected in the celtic, Americana sound of their music. Then, it was locals night. All the performers live in Nashville or the surrounding area. There were 12 artists, each doing 3 songs. A mix of stuff. Overall, very good, with some excellent stuff floating to the top. Todd Elgin was witty and entertaining. One writer's song, Hero at Home, celebrated a women who's husband has gone off to war. It's being released by another artistic on Sept 5th. Keep an ear out for it, cause it's a really good song. After the locals, they always have a featured songwriter, someone who's had some great success with their songs. Tonight was Shae Smith. Most of her stuff is country, so I didn't know it, but I did recognize Complicated. She was really great. There's something so raw and wonderful about hearing a writer, who's not a performer, perform their own songs. She did this one song about a man attending AA meetings. So moving and wonderful. It hooked into me in a deep way.

The Bluebird has a very welcoming and supportive atmosphere. Songwriters are just loved in this town. I picked up a pamphlet on how to book a spot at the club. Gerald and I have to play there!

1 comment:

Ronnie Flamingo said...


I know how you feel. Even though I've lived in the South for all my life and attended church since I was born, these churches are different and hard to understand.

When I was a senior in college, I took a course on the History of American Religious Thought (I was a history major). One of the class projects was to attend a snake handling church. It was a very similar experience to yours--except for the snakes (I hate snakes). I was glad to go back to being a Methodist after that.

I've really enjoyed your blog. Keep writing!