Smile Politely

The Church Hopper #6: McKinley Presbyterian Church

I’m afraid I haven’t been much of a church hopper the past couple of months. I confess it’s because I’ve been attending the same church somewhat regularly. Which one you ask? Well, I will keep that a secret for now.

But I did play hooky from my regular church last Sunday to attend McKinley Presbyterian Church which is located at 809 South Fifth Street in Champaign.

McKinley is typical of campus churches with its progressive theology, which I deeply appreciate, and its outreach to students. In fact, college students and professors must be the norm for McKinley’s congregants. I was asked by a friendly gentleman who sat in the pew behind me, “Are you a student?” to which I replied, “No, I’m a little too old to be a student.” He then asked, “Oh, you’re a professor?” I answered, “No, I’m not a professor.” He then asked, a little confused, “Then what do you do?”

When I opened the bulletin to examine the order of worship, I was pleased to see a quote by Walter Bruegemman who is among my favorite Christian authors. It was refreshing to see for once in a church bulletin a reference to an intelligent biblical scholar instead of the usual theological superficiality from folks such as Rick Warren.

The service was centered around the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of the bondage of Pharaoh and the Egyptians found in Exodus which was one of the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the day. It was good to find a church that actually follows the lectionary, but I wish we could have heard, if not all, at least a couple of the other readings. Using all of the lectionary readings for each Sunday of the year is a great way to get through most of the important biblical texts every three years.

The “Not-Yet-Ready-for-Serious-Worship Band” opened the service with the song Pharaoh, Pharaoh sung to the tune of Louis, Louis. Other worship songs also centered around this theme, for example, the African-American spiritual O Mary Don’t You Weep. The choir sang a selection from the dusty archives of choral literature, With a Voice of Singing by Martin Shaw which continued the theme of being delivered from bondage with the text, “The Lord hath delivered his people.”

A version of the Lord’s Prayer was used that referred to God as both Father and Mother — a wonderful reflection on McKinley’s commitment to diversity and the use of inclusive language.

Rev. Heidi Weatherford elaborated on the theme of being delivered from bondage tying it in to more contemporary and relevant issues such dependence/co-dependence and poverty, illustrating her strong foundation in liberation theology.

My only complaint about McKinley is that no bread and wine was offered. I know I might sound like a broken record on the subject of Communion, but I feel that the central act of Christian worship ought to be just that. On the other hand, the church I am currently attending never has communion, so please don’t tell my brothers and sisters in the Order of St. Luke!

All in all, I found McKinley Presbyterian Church to be a great place to worship and I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who is searching for a church that is open-minded, inclusive (particularly towards the LGBT community), committed to social justice and rooted in sound theology.

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