Green lights

Central City Church

On Father’s Day, Pastor Otto Kelly called for fathers to be more involved.

On Father’s Day, Pastor Otto Kelly called for fathers to be more involved.

Photo By Nick Higman

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City Center Church

777 Center St.
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 324-2004

Central City Church has yet to procure a permanent location for worship, but through the graciousness of the local business owners at Maytan Music, the church has been allowed the upstairs rehearsal hall for their service. It is an easy find, what with signs and arrows to point the way and the fine assist of drums echoing down a stairwell to let you know you’re in the right place. The space upstairs above the music store is lined with both metal and cushioned fold out chairs facing a small rise for the stage, which is inhabited by a five-piece band.

The room is brimming with music as the band practices the set they’ll play for the congregation, shaking the dust from the ceiling to mix with the slight smell of polished brass in the air. The good-spirited jesting among the band members is emblematic of the attitude of the people in attendance, though at the beginning of the 10 a.m. service, there is only a rough handful present. People gradually filter in to fill the seats while the band plays classic hymns with enough of a modern twist to rival a jazz band.

The atmosphere is relaxed and informal. Some of the parishioners stand and clap while others smile from their seats, until the music is finished, and the service begins with everyone standing to hold hands for the opening prayer. Pastor Otto Kelly begins the sermon by focusing on the sacrifices God faced in order to save every person present: “With every lash Jesus took, we are healed.”

Kelly is unfettered by the formalities of church. This is because he prefers that the congregation function as a whole. Communion, in the form of crackers and grape juice, is collected by every church member and brought back to their seats to be prayed over and taken at the same time. Kelly calls this “unification in sacrament,” emphasizing the importance of unity in the church.

Following communion, a transparent pulpit is placed at the head of the church, which Kelly pulls up a stool to sit behind with a worn Bible in hand. Continuing a series of sermons that he calls “Tough Love,” Kelly focuses on fathers, since it is Father’s Day. The chief charge that is put to the men in the congregation is to “Take Responsibility.”

According to Kelly, the word “father” is mentioned more than 1,500 times in the Bible, and it is a man’s responsibility to not stand idly by in their own life or the lives of their family. “We do not need apathy, we need responsibility.”

Though this is a kick in the proverbial pants for all parents, the pastor softens the blow by mentioning some of the possible reasons people are afraid to come to God or to take responsibility in their lives. An interesting psychological comparison of parents to God is given to explain why a child will become reluctant to face religion. “If a person’s parents were mean or vindictive, that may be the way that they view God. But that’s not right.” Kelly goes on to say that a person’s conduct will not deter God’s love. “People are fickle, but God will not desert you.”

To further drive home the thoughts of responsibility for men and to bring the sermon full circle, Kelly quotes I Corinthians 13:11, “When I became a man I put away childish things.”

Kelly completes the service with a final prayer and these words, “This sermon is ended. May all your lights be green.”