Sunday, August 7, 2011

The First Baptist Church of Hollywood

This morning, I heard passages read aloud from the King James Version of the Bible. God's Word in the English of Shakespeare's era is a good way to start any day.

The First Baptist Church of Hollywood is either in a period of transition or on the verge of closing its doors. Or maybe I am projecting either of those possibilities as an excuse for what went on inside its sanctuary this morning. The thing is, one shouldn't need to make excuses, which ought to give an indication of how things went.
Allow me to begin by asking (Seinfeld mode activated): What is the deal with every church including "First" in its title? (Seinfeld mode deactivated). Is there a Third Baptist Church somewhere and if so, couldn't they have come up with a more original name and eliminate the ordinals altogether?

Back to today's service, it began with some heavy organ music, akin to a funeral dirge. Don't get me wrong; it was a well-played funeral dirge, but about as spiritually uplifting as a Depeche Mode song. The instrumental prelude was followed by a medley of sung songs, chosen by members of the congregation. Yes, friends, the organist/pianist took requests. I half expected to see a tip jar on the side of the baby grand. It was all I could do not to shout out, "Layla!"

Typically, basic information of a church can be found on the back of its Sunday bulletin. Failing that, it might appear on a PowerPoint slide. Absent PowerPoint, perhaps a portion of its website. The bulletin didn't include any information on who the head pastor was, and there were no statements of beliefs anywhere. There was no PowerPoint which made me happy, but they also don't seem to have a website which left me without a lot of the information I normally use to prepare for each service (fortunately Yelp's listing of worship service start times was accurate).

The church looks like a church. What I mean is that if you closed your eyes and pictured a traditional, simple church layout, that would be what you'd get upon walking into First Baptist. Everything was painted white except for the dark wood of the pews, and the low attendance meant there was a lot of dark wood visible. I'd guess there couldn't have been more than 50 in the congregation, and the church appeared to be able to hold a few hundred people.

A longtime friend of the family is undergoing chemotherapy and his doctor told him the worst possible place to go when your body is vulnerable to illness and disease is church. He wasn't saying this to promote any atheist tendencies; rather he was talking about how congregation members tend to be more physically touchy-feely than the average person, resulting in an abnormal amount of germs being spread around the room. Most regular church-goers know a common tradition of the last 20 years or so is to interrupt the flow of worship for a period of "greeting." Typically, you shake the hand of the people in front of, next to, or behind you. Oddly, in this small congregation (which -- mind you -- was scattered throughout the large church), worship couldn't resume until everybody had clasped hands with, grabbed the shoulders of, or hugged one another. It reminded me of the end of parochial school sports events when both teams would line up and high-five each other... only this lacked that level of organization.

Speaking of organization, there was no real order of worship -- the bulletin contained little to no information about what would happen in church. No specific songs were listed, no specific prayers or liturgical information of any kind. And no topic of the sermon or even Bible verses. But the next "Board Game Night" will be this coming Friday at 7:30pm, for those interested. No order -- we sang for 15 minutes, then we greeted each other for several minutes, then we took the offering, and finally the guest pastor, "Brother Robert Cole," took center-state (no pulpit).

I think a conversation with Brother Robert would be very enlightening. A former R&B DJ, Brother Robert was once homeless and now serves as head of a mission that caters to those on skid row. He confessed to being under the weather, but he did his level best to convey the message of the day.

I counted two people sound-asleep in the pews in front of me, and I didn't dare turn to look behind me.

He had interesting things to say, and for a man performing mission work to espouse thoughts on Mark's "eye of a needle" passage certainly contains social relevance and credibility. But there was no energy to Brother Robert's words. He didn't have the attention of the congregation. I found my mind wandering several times during the sermon.

Perhaps the church is lacking a full-time pastor, which might account for the hodgepodge state of worship I experienced. Or, as stated above, I might have sat in on a congregation on its proverbial last legs. I hope a church located very central to all the big Hollywood landmarks can get its act together and generate a bigger draw, if for no other reason than they used the King James Version, and more people can benefit from that on Sundays.



Sunday Scorecard

This will be a regular part of my weekly reviews, a series of short-answer questions about the day's experience.

What is the contact info for the church?

The First Baptist Church of Hollywood

6682 Selma Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90028 

What was the denomination?


What Bible verses were referenced?

Mark 10:23-31 (Read from the KJV... and there was much rejoicing!)

What are the demographics of the congregation?

Apx. 50 attendees in the congregation, mostly Caucasian. A decent mix of young and old. No children that I could see. 

Was the atmosphere formal or casual?

Coats and ties on the gentlemen leading worship; everybody else quite casual, many with Starbucks cups

What was the music like?

Organ and piano

How was the use of PowerPoint?

No PowerPoint (And there was much rejoicing!)

Being Hollywood, were there celebrities in the congregation?

The two women a few rows up from me were familiar faces, but no big names

No comments:

Post a Comment