Greater Light Christian Center
This column, as I’ve said before, is one blind man touching the elephant once. It’s never going to give a comprehensive representation of any church or spiritual experience. It will never offer an in-depth discussion of any topic, like “Faith in Science.” It is what it is, but my feeling is, after two and a half years of doing this column, the things I learn from one visit to any “service” are easily enough to tell me what a church is all about.
I think my visit to Greater Light Christian Center proves this rule. I went to the Sunday evening service (first and third Sundays, 6 p.m.), so it was less populated than the weekly Sunday morning service. Also, Senior Pastor Glenn E. Taylor Sr. was not there. And the choir was half its usual size. I was told at least five times how much better the Sunday morning service is, and I don’t doubt that regular members would find more to like about the morning service, but I thought the evening service was fantastic. Part of it was that I got to meet so many more people than I would have met at a packed morning service, so I got to hear more what the congregation is up to.
I don’t want to eschew my usual format of funky anecdotal lede, description of the building, the readings and the sermon, but I’m kind of intrigued with this concept.
First thing I learned about this congregation: The leadership is very welcoming. I can tell this because the congregation is very welcoming. From the moment I sat down, I was chatting with some ladies who thought they recognized me from TV, eventually admitting it’s because I bear a passing resemblance to Howie Mandel. The senior pastor’s wife, co-pastor Gwen, further convinced me of the congregation’s friendliness when she had a long conversation with me after the service, introducing me to many of the leaders in the church, even welcoming me during her closing prayer in the service.
This is a no-holds-barred congregation. I’ve seen many people cry while testifying in Christian churches. But I can’t remember hearing such brutal self-disclosure as I heard from Minister Kim Parker Hill. She told heartrending stories of childhood abuse and soul-crushing disregard.
“You are looking at a miracle,” she said. “It was God’s word that I hid in my heart that I was able to withdraw in my times of distress.” I’d have to agree. This was the kind of stuff you’d hear at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, generally used as a reason for using drugs and alcohol, rather than a speaker’s glorification of her higher power. In other words, Hill made it clear that it was her faith that got her through those horrid times. And it’s her faith that gets her through these horrid times.
This congregation rocks. OK. I’ll take the word of the members that the full choir makes better music than this partial choir. I mean, I was in church; I kind of had to take people at their word. But this partial choir raised the roof. On the other hand, energy may increase with numbers, but quality doesn’t necessarily improve. I’ve met music pastor Doug Sandall, the bass player, and his wife, Pam, before. And I’ve heard the choir’s drummer, Cliff Porter of Jelly Bread, on download.
This congregation is involved in the community. I met the lady who heads up programs like ACCEPT, African-American Community Cultural Education Program and Training, www.acceptonline.org, which provides HIV education and substance abuse prevention assistance. I also met the administrator of Safe Embrace, www.safeembrace.org, a program that deals with domestic violence.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say if you want to get a good introduction to this church, and you’d like a real chance to meet the people who make it up, you may just want to try the Sunday evening service. But that’s just the opinion of one blind guy.MUSIC