Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City

The third Summer Church Visit of SHIFT took place at the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, located at 777 South 1300 East. We chose the location as our first foray into theism because it's website claimed open open open arms and love love love for all. I figured, hey, if your Jesus tells you to love EVERYONE and JUST LOVE THEM, I can probably handle your kind of Christianity. You know, sans judgment and condemnation here on earth.

Five people attended this church visit, in comparison to six at the Zen Center and five at First Unitarian, so while not many of our members were coming to the visits thus far, enough of us were able to wake up and venture out for the educational experiences that made it worth it to continue!

First Baptist Church looks large and old and daunting, up on the hill kitty corner from East High School. But it sure beat us where to enter the building! When we finally decided to head down a path toward what looked like some back doors, we did eventually find the sanctuary. We were welcomed by an elderly lady who asked us each our names, was very happy we had come, gave us free bottled water and a program, and informed us excitedly that there was a community potluck dinner immediately following the service and she really hoped we would come!

We entered a dimly-lit and expansive room with wooden pews. They weren't filled to the brim with people, either. Those who came sat pretty spaced apart, were predominantly if not all white, with I would guess a median age of 40. Probably 5-10 different individuals approached us to say welcome, shake our hands, and insist that we come to eat food with them following the meeting! They were certainly friendly and inviting.

However we joined First Baptist on a rather out-of-the-ordinary Sunday ~ their long-time pastor was leaving for a different church, and a new one would be joining their congregation (or rather coming to lead their congregation) in a couple of weeks. What we sat through during this meeting was basically a farewell service, with many religious and scriptural readings on various topics related to parting or taking leave.

The strangest part to me was near the end, when all the congregants turned to face each other for a few minutes ~ either singing or reciting, I forget which. But it was awkward to be making eye contact with people we had never met, who were saying words we were not joining in saying because they were quite religious and held no meaning for us.

We did not stay afterward for the "dinner." I would say that this was the most "Jesus-y" service I have attended yet!


  1. From Abhishek Mathur:

    I'll probably add a few more details to your post. This was the first time I had attended a complete religious service of a religion other than the one I had been brought up in. So several things that would seem normal to others may be new to me.

    The "first friends" branded bottle, handed out by the wife of the outgoing pastor with ichthys on it, was definitely unusual for starters.

    The service certainly involved the most singing of any of the services I have attended this summer. Infact other than the sermon and the general announcements, the rest involved recitation by the congregation.

    The 100-200 community seemed pretty close knit and friendly. The 'dinner' invitations seemed pretty hard to avoid.:P

    The most unique and disturbing section of the entire program in my opinion was the section called "Children's Moment". About 5-10 children of ages 8-12 went to the center steps of the stage where they sat with a senior member of the congregation, who produced a local map and basically concluded that the Bible was the map of life and they must look only to it for directions in future. Made me understand why people have such trouble letting go later in life.

    Here is the section titled "Our Prayer for Each Other" from my copy of the program sheet.

    'We turn to the center and sing'
    "Go now in peace, never be afraid,
    God will go with you each hour of every day!
    Go now in faith , steadfast, strong and true;
    Know God will guide you in all you do!"

    Definitely awkward!

  2. Thank you for this, Abhishek! I had forgotten entirely about the "Children's Moment" and it was certainly an awkward position to put the children up in front of the congregation and compare the Bible to a map they could follow for directions ~ I very much wanted to ask if that man had ever found "directions" in the Bible, and what were they? Because the Bible I've been reading has some pretty awful directions from a pretty mean God, to his followers!

  3. I agree. The last thing we need is being inspired by all those accounts of violence. :~
    Actually the most surprising part was when they gave the pastor's wife tickets to a hot tub bath/massage in Park City. Ladies and Gentlemen, your tithing dollars at work!

  4. Ha ha ha! No joke ~ like I wanted to think about what that pastor and his wife would be doing to celebrate after leaving this congregation??

  5. That certainly had me going ewww :~