Monday, July 16, 2007

Vistas on a Visit to Horizon

Yesterday I had another unscheduled Sunday, so again took advantage of the opportunity to visit and worship with a church in a tradition other than mainline. Though I've set my own horizons on finding a congregation within the emerging church category - given that my relatively liberal theological worldview precludes much of anything else - this time I chose Horizon Christian Fellowship, San Diego. Besides a copyright notice, street address and contact info, the footer on each page of the website says, "God Bless America." As do congregations in the Calvary Chapel movement that has become extensive enough to be considered close to what we'd call a denomination, Horizon terms itself a fellowship. Predictably, on the Horizon campus, during worship and checking out the website, I found myself applying Reformation criteria of Word and Sacrament to my experiences.

When I arrived at the church complex, I went into the nearest building, the auditorium, where the first of a series of three "Essentials for Life" – A Win, Disciple, Send Equipping Course – classes was just beginning. Since I hadn't read the website carefully enough I hadn't planned on going to a class, but in a friendly manner they gave me a participant's guide to the course to keep; I picked up some collateral materials and then made my way to the far-away gymnasium for worship. The design of the printed materials is contemporary, clean and attractive without being slick (a lot of it's on coated paper, so I needed to say without being conceptually excessively slick), in colors I'd call "bright naturals."

In the worship arena, there was a raised platform with lectern, some sound equipment plus 1) no communion table and 2) no baptismal font. On the website I found evidence of a sign of grace rather than a means of grace or effective sign of grace theology, but clicking around as I edited this post eight years later I found nothing related to sacraments or ordinances. My original blog post included this note from the website back then: "The first weekend of every month, we celebrate the Lord's supper/communion as part of the weekend services. Please join us in honoring Jesus' death and resurrection."

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26)

At worship, continued
: led by guitar and a female vocalist, we sang several songs unfamiliar to me, and then one of my all-time faves, which for a while formed part of my blogger profile—" Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name!" I still remember singing "Shout to the Lord" a few winters ago at the PC(USA)'s Synod of Southern California and Hawaii mission event at Bel Air Pres ... a very different setting, a radically differing theological perspective ... Pastor Phillip MacIntosh, the charmingly engaging son of Pastor Mike MacIntosh, who was out of town, was the speaker/teacher and did a practical, well thought-out application of Ephesians 4:17-32. During the message Pastor Phillip said you can't just pop into church just to get your $3.00 lunch and expect to become a changed person, so post-worship, I checked out the lunch place. The breakfast buffet I selected from was $4.50, the lunch spread $5.00, but we've had a degree of $$$ inflation. Very tasty food, so good I'll write a restaurant review when I find a few minutes.

Locally, Mike MacIntosh's biography of a journey through drug addiction to founding pastor of an institution that has grown to help God change a multitude of lives is fairly well-known, even in mainline circles. In a way I was heartened that I had difficulty finding a page with a greeting, photo or message from Pastor Mike, who is currently HCF's senior pastor, but on the other hand, I always want to read a greeting from or bio of the church's pastors, and there was one, on a Know God? page that's no longer there.

The Horizon timeline and history is gone from the website, but it chronicled a journey from home study groups at the home of Mike MacIntosh, then director of Maranatha! Music to the current Horizon Affiliates of over 100 churches and para-church organizations that have grown out of Horizon in San Diego--some are affiliated both with Horizon and Calvary chapel. There are international campuses in Mexico, Russia and Japan. In the mainline, especially around in here in Southern California, we refer to church "campuses," too! Like like most conservative, evangelical churches, the pastoral leadership is exclusively male and the statement of faith contains the "biblical inerrancy" phrase. HCF-affiliated schools include an on-campus preschool, elementary, a junior/senior high, Horizon College and Horizon School of Evangelism. We watched a short video featuring local youth and a husband-wife missionary team currently serving in Japan. One of the young women commented on her joy at visiting Japan and being with part of "the universal church we hear so much about."

Bible studies, home fellowships, a comprehensive, accredited educational system, Sunday meals, instruction in Christian living...is Horizon Christian Fellowship functioning something like a total institution or is it an organization simply seeking to give its friends and members total provision? For sure, Jesus Christ in the Spirit calls us to conform to the Imago Dei in which we were created, but does HCF seek to re-shape, re-form and re-generate its members into another image, that of a stereotypical contemporary conservative Christian? Once you're in, is it easy or hard to get out? Do you want to leave? Are there rites of passage beyond baptism? How about charismatic leaders, other than the Crucified and Risen One?

A few months ago I wrote,
The colors, texts, textures and music marking the events in the liturgical calendar were more real to me than any of my own individual history ever had been and had shaped my life into deep, indelible patterns and designs that of late seem completely irretrievable. The church was my literal life...the ministry I did was the fruit of my labor and the fruit of my heart.

The rhythms, pace and pulse of local church ministry with its alternating consistency and surprising interventions shaped my days and literally outlined my identity. How can a broken heart keep beating? And to what avail? Although I definitely consider myself a wordsmith, it has taken the words of others to describe my situation and feelings.
In other words, the protestant mainline for me was something close to what Horizon is attempting to be for its constituency.

HCF is doing a wonderful ministry for a lot of people, and equipping them to serve well, too. Although I didn't attempt a detailed demographic survey, offhand I'd say it was mostly White, with quite a few Asian-Americans, a lot of Latino/as and some Blacks, probably mainly African-American, with all ages well-represented. An extensive architectural renovation is in progress and will lead to a handsome, useful, multi-purpose physical plant. Of course I compared this with my visit to La Jolla Community Church, clearly a mainline spinoff, so tomorrow or Wednesday I'll finish and post my blog about LJCC.

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