This is the gratitude blog post intended for Tuesday, November 27, 2012. Today, I am super-happy to express gratitude to churches that go above and beyond the call of duty by offering special and unique things to its congregation.
Good Shepherd Catholic Church
I am grateful to Good Shepherd for its progressive approach to Catholicism. Like everything else in life, Catholicism is on a continuum, ranging from ultra conservative to ultra liberal. However, I hate using the terms “conservative” and “liberal” in religion because those terms are loaded with negative meanings in the political realm. Instead, I prefer to say that Good Shepherd is extremely open-minded, modern, inclusive, and forward-thinking in its approach.
That surprising approach caught me off guard in our early days when we first moved to Alexandria in 2003. We attended mass and were met by a priest, Father Chuck, who was saying the mass while wearing sandals. “Wow,” I thought to myself. That was different than the traditional Catholic churches I had attended most of my life!
Since then, I have taken note of Good Shepherd’s stellar job embracing a wide-open atmosphere of Catholic faith, from its continuing work towards unifying the two separate “churches” of its Spanish-speaking and non Spanish-speaking parishioners, to its current work on renovating the church, further amplifying an already large church.
Perhaps the single most important thing I noticed about Good Shepherd and its stance on progressive Catholicism was an event that took place around August of 2011. I learned that Good Shepherd had allowed Muslims to use its church space while their mosque was being built. Many viewed this as a controversial move; I perceived it as a brave and humanitarian way of bridging understanding and peace among feuding religions. John Lennon would be proud.
Virginia Hills Baptist Church
Last year, Virginia Hills Baptist Church offered a free event that was open to the public. Regretfully, I was not able to attend, but I enjoyed the experience vicariously through the eyes of my husband and girls. It was the live nativity event!
The live nativity event is indeed one of the most original, creative live events I had heard of. It is a drive-through event in which cars line up and proceed along a hilly, winding road, stopping along the way. At the beginning of the car ride, one of the church volunteers provides a CD containing narration and music. The narrator recites the Christmas story in spurts, telling the listener to stop the recording (CD) during timed intervals.
At each interval, interesting things happen. You may see live animals, you may see actors (church volunteers) fighting, speaking, or otherwise reciting their lines, or you may be treated to hot cocoa. If memory serves me correctly, there was even a written program describing the details of this unique live event.
Virginia Hills Baptist Church is doing it again this year on December 14 and 15. I am so there! http://www.virginiahillsbaptist.com/content.cfm?id=324
Mount Vernon Unitarian Church
Mount Vernon Unitarian Church (MVUC) will always be special to me. This is the church where it all started for me as a blogger on Patch. I approached a Patch editor at an event at MVUC and soon thereafter, started off with my “A Slice of Faith” series.
MVUC is tremendously fascinating in all it does. It seems to break all the rules of what a church should be, thereby opening the door to a religious freedom that is warm, inviting, and proudly different. For starters, the person in charge is a woman, Reverend Kate. More importantly, it offers its congregation a unique worship experience without relying on formal doctrines.
MVUC also prides itself on the most distinguishing feature I have ever seen in a church - - its source of energy. MVUC relies on solar and geothermal energies as part of its sustainable energy project.
There is always something educational, musical, or crafty going on in the halls of MVUC. I’ve attended many of MVUC’s events and can’t wait to go back for more.
I’d like to post quick honorable mentions to thank Mount Vernon UMC, Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, and Bethlehem Baptist Church for their compelling, intriguing, thought-provoking messages on their grand marquis.
I drive on Sherwood Hall Lane and Belle View Boulevard streets several times each week. Since I pass these three churches all the time, I always get to see different messages posted. One of my favorite recent messages was at the grand marquis of Mount Vernon UMC. It read something like this: “Church Inside. Some assembly required.”
I love reading these messages as I drive by because I enjoy interpreting them within my own life. The messages are soft, subtle little thoughts that ultimately help us realize how blessed we are and how we can get closer to God.
I am so very grateful for all these wonderful churches that rock. What are you grateful for?