Net cast wide
Grace Community Church
Grace Community Church2346 Floral Ave.
Chico, CA 95926
One of the problems with doing Filet of Soul is that it’s difficult to return to places I particularly liked. There are so many edifices of soul, so many possible essays, so many people and places, that I feel like I’m playing favorites if I don’t hit every one before I return to one. But every religious institution has so many facets that I also often feel that one visit to a service doesn’t really offer a very nuanced view of the group, since often I don’t talk about particular ministries or community services or other aspects. At any rate, I checked out the “Living Stones” aspect of Grace Community Church—the youth ministry—back on May 3, 2007, which kind of precluded me from hitting the regular service unless I could find a significantly different angle.
Mix that in with the fact that I’ve been wanting to do a column focusing on spirituality on the internet for some time. But there’s just so much out there, even after hours looking, I didn’t feel that the resource I was creating was any better than what the average person would get with Google. (Although a website recommended to me by Neal Anderson, pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Ship of Fools, www.ship-of-fools.com, is almost worth its own story. Very funny, lots of info here, and “Mystery Worshipper” church reviews.)
That’s when I landed on the idea of virtually attending Grace’s adult service. It’s simple, go to www.gracechurchreno.org/resources.html, and about halfway down the page is a heading “podcasts” with the last few weeks of sermons. “A Day For Imperfect Moms: Mother’s Day 2009,” was the title of the week’s sermon.
Many congregations offer this type of virtual spirituality, reaching into the homes of people who are unable to physically attend. On Grace’s site, the sermon is posted as an MP3, just a sound file, not a video. Sermon notes are also available. On this particular Sunday, the notes are a titled God’s Heart-to-Heart for Moms, which has various categories—when you feel discouraged, when you feel angry, when you need wisdom, and others—and the Bible verses that pertain to them. Senior Pastor Dan Frank gave the sermon.
He began by reminding the congregation that God uses everyone in spite of their imperfections, following up with a clip from Hope Floats, a movie about dysfunctional family relationships. “Sometimes [family] relationships are so brutally honest that they’re painful,” he said. “I want to acknowledge before we move on that Mother’s Day for many of you is not a joyous happy day; it’s a painful day.”
He goes on to tell about dysfunctional mothers in the Bible: Sarah, who laughed at God; Rebeccah, who favored one of her children; Rachel, who stole her father’s idols and lied about it; Jochebed, Moses’ mother; Mary, Jesus’ mother who misplaced her son when he was 12. All of these somewhat imperfect mothers were used by God in significant ways.
Pastor Frank continued with various anecdotes about difficult family situations, showing how—even with imperfections—being a mother is not a temporary position but a permanent calling. “In your dysfunction, in your imperfection, you are still the safest person they have in their entire life. That’s the power of motherhood. That’s the power that God has placed inside of you.”
He ended the 39-minute sermon by asking all the women in the congregation to stand and then offered a prayer for them.
I’ll be honest here: One of the things I enjoyed most about Grace Community Church was the fellowship, the music and the intensity of being there. Even though the sound quality of the clip was excellent, I think the experience of listening on the computer without video is a pretty distant second to the real thing. On the other hand, it’s a pretty good tool for people who can’t attend because they’re homebound or out of town.