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Solomon’s Porch : A Review May 29, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, Church Planting, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.
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A couple of Sundays ago my wife and I visited Solomon's Porch, a new kind of church located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This church is often referenced when people speak of "the emerging church." My wife and I have this church on our short list of churches to visit and consider for when we move to Minnesota. Doug Pagitt is the pastor there and is often included in the handful of people mentioned when people ask who knows anything about the emerging church. What follows is my experience there.

We got there right on time, fearing we might arrive a touch late. Well, not to worry, 5:00 PM is more of a generalized show up time. Things didn't get moving in any sense of a corporate manner util 5:21 PM accoridng to my watch. That was fine with me. My usual church experience is that things start right on time and people still wander in for 20 minutes.

When things did get moving, it was the band that kind of eased into song and got everyone's attention – kind of. People were very much into their conversations, their coffee, and their comfy couches.

Oh yes, the appearance of the building they meet in was classic. They meet in an older church building, maybe Methodist at one time, and have cleared out all the pews, pulpit, and other clutter (except some pretty tall pipes that go to an organ I never did see or hear). Rather than pews in a row, there were couches, easy chairs, and occasional bistro tables and chairs. Candles here and there, with dim, but not annoyingly dim lighting. These furniture pieces were arranged in a circle around a stool – a stool you would never have noticed had you not known to look for it. Compare that to the pulpit in most churches.

As the music got going, Doug Pagitt made the rounds, shaking hands, conversing with people he knew, meeting people he didn't know. He was amazingly accessible before and after the worship time. I liked that.

There was not a coat or tie in the entire place. Believe me, I would have noticed. Lots of cargo and denim with loose fitting clothes, T-shirts, and the people who wore glasses wore cool glasses. The guy on the Mac commercial in which he holds hands with the PC guy would have fit right in here. The PC guy would have felt a bit uneasy.  

The music was home grown, real, unashamedly Christian, and actually pretty decent. Typically when I think of home grown music I think that "It means a lot to those people, but it really sucks to anyone else." This was pretty good msuic. Some people sang along with the music while other listened. The band did not invite people to sing with them nor did they seem to care if anyone did or didn't. They were just putting it out there for the gathering to do with what they wanted. Frankly, I like a little more participation than was happening, but coming from an all acappella congregational singing tradition, I am always going to be left wanting when I go somewhere else.  

Images and lyrics were available on two large screens on either side of the "auditorium." It was good. They were accessible, but not intrusive. I sat with my wife at a bistro table a couple steps up where the pulpit area used to be once upoon a time in this building and could see just fine.

After the singing, but before the sermon, there was considerable time given to a mother with her 9 year old daughter talking about children and families at Solomon's Porch. This scored big points with us because we have an 8 and 6 year old who are really hoping for friends when we move to Minnesota.

The sermon was kind of like a report of a conversation that had occurred the Tuesday prior. It was quite engaging. On Tuesday a group group (anyone can come I think) gathers to discuss the sermon topic, scripture or whatever will be addressed on the next Sunday. Doug gathers the conversation into an outline (kind of) and presents it to the folks there Sunday evening (which is the main gathering time). So, he presented some interesting and challenging concepts about politics and Christianity. Then, in what has been tried in other settings and always failed badly, he asked us all to gether into little groups and address a couple of questions or anything related to the topic. He set us free for about 10-12 minutes. Do you realize how long that is? The thing is, it worked. My group was pretty conversational, which is something since most of us didn't know each other. This could never have worked with pews.

We took communion. A woman got up and presented a mini message about her work as a massage therapist and how she touches bodies and tied it into the Lord's Supper. That was novel in many ways for me. I am most pleased with the fact that a woman is allowed to do that. Even having to write that last sentence gives me shivers, but I don't know how else to say it. I guess it is the word, "allowed" that really gets to me. She was terrific. It was normal. I want my daughter to see women doing those kinds of things.

There were about half a dozen communion stations scattered around the room. My bread had this surprising and delicious lemon flavor to it. That was a first. There was a wine option and a one cup option available to anyone who wanted to take sommunion that way.

OK, options during communion. Have you ever had options at a communion? I loved it.

But most of all, the communion did justice to the purpose of communion. We, as the body of CHrist, took the body of Christ and broke it and remembered Jesus int he presence of each other. Beautiful.

There was scripture and prayer. They have a few traditions that they do at Solomon's Porch that are theirs, but I never got the feel that these were the right traditions, but rather that they were their traditions. Big difference.

Pretty early on in the order of things, several minutes before the sermon, the littlest kids were relased to go do something. Then, just before the sermon, elementary kids up to Middle School (I think) were then released to go do their own thing. High schoolers are adults in this church, I guess, as they remained in the main gethering. I think that, too.

There were pieces of paper and pens scattered here and there on table. Before the thing got going, I asked someone what these were for and she said, "There are a lot of artsy people here and they need this." Later on we were invited from the pulpit stool to write or drama something about Pentecost, if we wanted to, and put it in a basket after the gathering. It might be used in a couple weeks for their special Pentecost art worship thingy (not sure what to call it).

All in all, we really liked the visit. We are interested, of course, what the "missional" means in everyday life these people. We want to be part of a church where something overtly missional is normal, not just for the ministry staff or "Super-Christians. "

When we move to Minnesota, we'll keep Solomon's Porch in mind.

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Comments»

1. Subversive Influence » Blog Archive » Church Reviews: Solomon’s Porch - May 29, 2006

[…] Reading someone else’s review of Solomon’s Porch reminded me of my own visit there (at that time in a different premises) late last summer. Sounds like the character of the meeting I was at hasn’t changed. […]

2. Keith Brenton - May 30, 2006

*SIGH.*

3. Joel Maners - May 30, 2006

Thanks for reporting on this. I’m glad to hear that they take children’s ministry seriously. Many new churches that I’ve seen just treat children as an afterthought. Some churches go the extra mile to incorporate children into the plenary worship of the church. This speaks volumes to the children, the adults and the outside community as well.

4. Donna - May 30, 2006

If I could design a church…..you just described it….

5. TCS - June 1, 2006

just catching up here. Wish I could have been there.

A couple of things. The comment about being left wanting in the preperation … expand. I think I know exactly what you mean but not sure.

And the “allowed” Wow.

6. fajita - June 1, 2006

TCS,

I was left wanting in the congregational participation of singing. I like a lot of people all singing more than I like a band only. This was not band only, but it was certainly band dominated worship.

It was a really good experience.

7. TCS - June 1, 2006

Gotcha. I have that same struggle at some places. I want to sing along even if no one else is. that is a problem if you want an opportunity for original music and allow that expression/worship.

8. Imagined Reality » Blog Archive » Clearing things up - June 3, 2006

[…] I want this to be a place where we all feel safe sharing our struggles, our disappointments and our dreams.  The other day when I read about Fajita's visit to Solomon's Porch, I wondered, If I could design the way we "do" church, what would my design be?  Do you have any thoughts? […]


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