Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Bruce Springsteen Eucharist

On Saturday evening, the local Trinity Episcopal Cathedral held a special "Bruce Springsteen Eucharist" (titled Sky of Mercy) to raise money for Trinity's hunger ministries. I have been wanting to attend a U2charist since I heard about them a couple years ago, so when I saw that a local church was offering one featuring Springsteen's music, I just had to go. This is the kind of innovative worship service that I love. Why can't my church do something like this? Its one of my ongoing frustrations (I'm learning that too many well-meaning church folks mostly talk about wanting young and middle aged adults to be involved in the life of the church, but when it comes to changing the format to appeal to our generation, they prefer tradition).

I've said this in a previous post and I'll say it again...the Community of Christ is in serious danger of losing a loyal fifth-generation member of the church if it does not do something to appeal to our generation. They've lost so many members already and are likely to after April's divisive World Conference (what I call "the gay conference" because most of the resolutions this time are about making the next step towards inclusion of sexual minorities in marriage and priesthood). I love the church and all the memories I have from over the years, but in my long-running "dark night of the soul" period, I realized that what I most crave is racial / ethnic diversity and being among people in my generation (those born between 1965 and 1990). I also learned, after getting my heart broken by no less than three ladies who are members of the church (I also broke the heart of one lady in the church, so I'm not innocent either), that if I seriously want to get married to a lady who shares my spiritual depth and interest, I really do have to go elsewhere to find her. I'm not going to find her in the Community of Christ.

To be fair, though, on Saturday morning, I attended the first hike of a hiking group from the Tuality Community of Christ congregation. I was the only one who showed up, besides the organizer, Jeff. I had met Jeff and his Japanese wife Janet (her American nickname) sometime last year and was glad to see them. We had a great time hiking from the Oregon Zoo all the way to OHSU to take the tram down to South Waterfront. It was several miles and several hours long hike and a great opportunity to get to know this couple (and their young children) better. They represent exactly what I'm looking for in a church community: diversity (through an interracial marriage). Unfortunately, there simply isn't enough diversity at Tuality or Portland Community of Christ congregations. Nor enough single people in my age group. Thus, I have decided to look into other churches, such as the Unitarian-Universalists, the Quakers, the Unity church, the Buddhists, the Hindus and possibly others. The main criteria is that none of these churches I'll visit in the coming months better knock another religion. I won't tolerate any smack talk from the pulpit. Besides, its a sign of an inferior religion which has to continually knock another religion during their worship service.

On Saturday afternoon, despite being tired from the hike, I headed to the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral for the Springsteen Eucharist. As soon as I walked into the sanctuary, I was awed by the massiveness of it. Okay, so it's not European-style massive, but for Portland, I'd say that it was pretty impressive for a cathedral. The light shining through the stained glass windows helped to create a surreal effect as I walked towards the front to sit in one of the pews. I was there at 4:30, as the paper recommended. By 5 p.m., the entire sanctuary filled to capacity. And people in my church have claimed that holding a church service at any other time other than Sunday morning would not get people in the door. Well, after what I saw on Saturday night, that excuse no longer washes with me. What were these several hundred people doing in church on a Saturday night? I certainly could have done other things with my time, but I made a point to attend. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral proves a church can hold event on a Saturday night and still fill a huge sanctuary (no Community of Christ church I've been to comes anywhere near the size of the sanctuary in Trinity Episcopal Cathedral).

The service was actually a full Eucharist (whatever that means!). A live band sang the prelude: "My City of Ruins." Between songs included segments of scripture verses or reading in unison (I actually dislike those). The next song was a bit irreverent, but I loved it: "Dancing in the Dark." It was especially interesting to see the guy sing the lines "I'm dyin' for some action...I need a love reaction, come on now baby gimme just one look." Do they know what Springsteen was singing about?!? That's pretty open minded of this church to sing those lines from that awesome song. Another great song was "The Streets of Philadelphia." The Reverend actually gave his sermon along the themes of that Oscar-winning song. He spoke about the prodigal son parable and what surprised me even more, he spoke about inclusion, not exclusion. I was shocked. I know nothing about the Episcopal Church, other than its a bit too formal for my tastes, but I thought it was more along the lines of Catholicism. Thus, I was shocked to see women serving communion and an altar girl. This is impressive. When I visit a church, I'm always concerned about the theology they preach. For example, the evangelical church my brother attends has a lot of people our age and great music to a live band, but come message time, its purely toxic (they spend more time condemning other religions than talking about what they offer to seekers).

Other songs sung were "Jesus Was an Only Son" (not sure if that's a Springsteen song, though), "Thunder Road", "If I Should Fall Behind", "My Father's House" and "The Rising." I was interested in how they did communion. I wasn't sure if I was going to partake of it, but I decided, "why not?" I thought it was going to take forever, but they have a fast moving system going. One lady gave me a round wafer, and another lady dunked it into the chalice of wine. And I was surprised that it was actual wine they used! I was really liking their communion at that point.

In the program bulletin, I noticed a few services this faith community offers: a discernment day for those needing special help discerning their life issues, and a labyrinth walk. They also offer meals for the homeless every Wednesday evening, though they said that anyone can have a free meal on them. They are also offering another U2charist in April, so I'll definitely be back. As I left, I thanked one of the ladies in the church garments for a great service. She replied, "I hope you'll visit us again." Well, perhaps. It was a pleasant surprise. I'll definitely attend the special eucharists (will an Enya one be in the works? I'd love to see that). However, truth be told, my church has spoiled me on its informalities. I doubt I'd ever feel at home in such a formal church as the Episcopal church. There is much to admire and I don't believe there is one true church. I just like seeing how other churches work and what they offer. I loved this service because its so different from my norm. But what I really want is "my norm" with more diversity.

I guess I'll be "dancing in the dark" until I find my community of progressives who share a similar worldview and appreciation for diversity. I sometimes feel like a prosciutto and brie baguette in a church full of balogna and Velvetta on Wonder bread. Or fried rice in a white rice church. Or jambalaya in a steak and potatoes church. Gosh, I'm hungry. Maybe its because I haven't been spiritual fed in a long time. The Springsteen Eucharist was a step in the right direction. It certainly ranks up there among the best church services I've ever attended.


franfw1 said...

I really enjoyed this service. Glad you did too. The congregational response in the Episcopal service leads back from the sixteenth-century Anglican Book of Common Prayer, through the Roman Catholic Church, to the ancient Temple of Jerusalem. The dramatic qualities of Catholic and Anglican liturgies were central to the development of English theater and of lots of great rock 'n' roll.

"Jesus Was an Only Son" is from Bruce's solo album "Devils and Dust."

Sansego said...

Thanks for posting.

I read that the event was attended by more than 600 people and raised nearly $4,000 for the Hunger ministry.

Can't wait until the U2charist!