Sunday, October 23, 2011

The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (third visit)

I had some personal matters to attend to last week, and I felt bad about not having attended worship.  I'd hoped to squeeze in a mid-week service somewhere, but none of the places I'd scouted looked promising or interesting. So I decided I'd be going to two worship services today to make up for it. The plan was to attend worship at the Russian Orthodox church first in English and then again in Russian, but after the English service it became obvious it wasn't the church for me. I decided to give The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood another go this morning.

The chief thing First Presbyterian has going for it is its pastor, Dan Baumgartner. I find his sermons to be thoughtful, intelligent, and above-and-beyond the norm. Because of him, I gain more insight into the Scriptures, and thus feel closer to God (and thus feel I can get away with using words like "thus"). However, on my second visit to the church, I found the demographics of the 9:30am traditional service to pale in comparison to the 11:00am contemporary service. I liked the diversity in the contemporary attendees, but I just don't like modern music and the general informality of a contemporary service.

I tried the 9:30am service this week, as well. Again, an excellent sermon by the pastor about how our attitude towards children is a fair barometer of our general character. But in addition to that, as he has done in the past, he took a well-known passage (the "suffer the children... come unto me" verses from Luke) and avoided the cliche. He did not make it about baptism or confirmation the way most pastors do, instead, focusing on an idea found a few verses later about how we need to be childlike -- regardless of age -- when attempting to relate to God. We must approach Him with humility, and we must be in awe, if for no other reason than because there will always be so much we do not understand and cannot control. He made some cogent points. But, as before, the congregation lacked youth and diversity.

I am not against old-people, though I am against the older woman who sat behind me during today's sermon, noisily going to town on hard candy. I'm not kidding, it sounded like she was mashing boulders in a quarry. Anyway, I know I am not the only person under the age of 40 who values the ritual and formality of a traditional worship service. And I know there are people of different ethnicities and backgrounds who feel the same, too. It isn't that I need those things, but First Presbyterian is in the heart of Hollywood; it ought to reflect the diversity of those who live in the area.

What I'll do is continue to periodically attend First Presbyterian; I might try another contemporary service and see if I can take the praise band. In the meantime, I'll keep searching for that perfect home church for me, because this is important to me. As a child I got led around to whatever church my mom told me to go to. As a young adult I fell into the rut of the Lutheran church because it was what I knew. As a man, I want to find a church that speaks to me, and though a pastor is a large part of a church, there should be more there for me than just that.



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 Presbyterian Church of Hollywood

1760 N. Gower St.
Hollywood, CA 90025

What was the denomination?


What Bible verses were referenced?

Luke 18:15-17

What are the demographics of the congregation?

The contemporary service was much more diverse than the traditional 9:30am service

Was the atmosphere formal or casual?

Formal in structure and tone

What was the music like?

Organ and a voluminous choir (and a better-than-average children's choir), with a shout-out to the lovely and talented Karmen Suter on flute

How was the use of PowerPoint?

Very little, just for the Bible verses and song lyrics

Being Hollywood, were there celebrities in the congregation?

Either yes or a good lookalike

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