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!