A year ago this time, 31 members from the staff of The Stranger – “the alternative paper to Seattle’s alternative paper” – visited 31 churches all around the larger Seattle area and wrote reviews of the 31 churches. Quest must be special because Dan Savage, the editor of the Stranger and infamous sex advice columnist [Savage Love], visited Quest.
Our review along with the review of other churches were brutal, hilarious, and actually insightful because sometimes, churches have no idea how stale and awkward we can be because we’ve been “inside” for so long.
Seattle is infamously known as “the least churched city in America.” The Northwest is supposedly the most least churched region in America. But it isn’t godless or spiritual. It’s a beautiful place – full of life, questions, conversations, and such. What I love the most about living in this city and this region is that you have to earn the right to have your voice in the larger marketplace of thoughts, ideas, and philosophies.
I thought the Stranger would return this year but no luck. As a result of the Stranger’s review, it led to numerous intense posts and conversations that might be worth reading for those who are new to the blog in the past year.
Here’s the Stranger’s review of Quest:
The pastor ordered us to hug our neighbors.
“Make them a little uncomfortable,” we were instructed, “by squeezing them a little too hard—that’s okay. It’s part of the getting-to-know-you process.”
With charges of clerical sexual abuse still being leveled at churches great and small, you might think a Christian pastor would err on the side of not encouraging congregants to hug their neighbors past their comfort levels. The getting-to-know-you process? More like the getting-to-sue-you process.
I attended the early service at Quest Church—one of Seattle’s “emerging churches,” a sort of Mars Hill wannabe, if slightly more progressive—on an important day. Quest had been meeting in a warehouse space it rented from Interbay Covenant Church. Six years old, Quest was growing, attracting hundreds to Sunday services, while 65-year-old Interbay was slowly dying, attracting a couple of dozen at best. So in April, Interbay voted itself out of existence and handed all of its property—its homely sanctuary (picture the Brady Bunch’s living room pressed into service as a church), the converted warehouse, a parking lot—over to the upstart. Sunday’s 10:00 a.m. service was the first for the “merged” church, hence the getting-to-know-you hugs.
There was some insipid singing, led by an insipid worship band, and then a sermon preached by what I took to be Interbay’s soon-to-be unemployed pastor. It focused on a selection from Luke: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple.” That verse was a favorite of David Koresh and Jim Jones; isolating someone from his or her family is what cult leaders typically do. But we were encouraged not to read that verse with “a cold, unimaginative realism,” because “Jesus uses hyperbole.” Good to know.
Then Quest Church’s pastor, Eugene Cho, tore a loaf of bread in half, we took Communion, and then we prayed.
A word about the praying: When I was dragged off to church by my parents, we folded our hands together to pray and assumed a posture of humility. In today’s emerging churches, you lift both hands up toward heaven, arms out, in what looks like a sort of double-armed fascist salute. It’s a posture that screams, “Look at me, God! I’m praying! To you!” The more enthusiastic worshippers looked like toddlers reaching up for Daddy, anxious to be picked up and hugged past their comfort levels.
Oh, and Communion? I lined up and tried to take it. But I dropped my piece of wine-soaked bread on the floor. It was an accident. Or a miracle. [DAN SAVAGE]