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My visit to Muldoon’s Hillcrest Church of the Nazarene on October 23 started off slow. The welcome and greeting was weak, but the beautiful musical service took hold, leading us into a worshipful state. Then, “bam!”, a noisy ‘meet n’ greet’ totally broke that spell, taking us off in another direction. The new member induction ceremony was nice to witness.
More music led us back again to worship. Pastor Brian Parker gave an excellent Bible-based sermon on The Prodigal Son, followed by a final musical selection and it was over. Although no one spoke to me as I left, I had an instinctive feeling I could comfortably venture another visit to this contemporary church on the hill in Muldoon.
Not Big on Greetings But Great Music
As I entered Hillcrest Church of the Nazarene on October 23, a sole greeter/bulletin passer welcomed me. Finding the rear two-thirds of the church occupied by members or seats being saved, I was forced to find a seat toward the front of the church. A friendly woman in my row warmly greeted me before the start of the service. The piano was being expertly played by a man playing upbeat hymns.
The service started promptly at 10:15 a.m. with contemporary Christian music presented by a group of six instrumentalists accompanying two women singers. The effect was calming and very worshipful with good congregational participation. After several musical selections the music concluded with prayer led by one of the women singers. This is an attractive church, contemporary in design, both inside and out. Behind the platform, a large wooden cross is affixed to a floor-to-ceiling rock facing.
After prayer, Pastor Brian Parker took the stage and announced a meet n’ greet, but “…first a couple of announcements”. No order of service was given in the bulletin. If a church is going to the time and expense of providing a bulletin, they should indicate who the pastor of the day is, service components, and the names of the major participants. It’s clearly visitor-unfriendly to leave guests in the dark regarding names, practices, or service flow.
After the announcements, Parker encouraged people to meet ‘n greet. What ensued was a noisy and lengthy period of gladhanding. Several people did introduce themselves to me and greet me. However, it seemed to me the worshipful state created by the musicians was instantly broken and never returned. I feel most churches “shoot themselves in the foot” by having “meet n’ greets” where mostly members greet each other and ignore church guests. Often, ignored guests never return to that church.
I estimate 50-60 adults were present in the sanctuary this day. The Pastor Brian talked about membership, a coming baptism, and becoming a member. He warmly welcomed seven new members with certificates, a kind word about each, and prayer. More churches should show this kind of warmth to new members. Before the sermon, one of the new member couples presented a beautiful vocal and guitar musical selection. Rarely do I hear special musical selections such as this in churches, in favor of relying on a house band/praise group to do the job. Christian churches started with members doing all worship functions, including the music, themselves. Over the centuries worship has deteriorated to being primarily presented by paid professionals.
This day Pastor Parker preached a sermon in his continuing series of sermons based on Scot McKnight’s latest book, “The Jesus Creed”. Based on the parable of the prodigal son, it was an excellent Bible-based sermon made even more interesting with a video by The Skit Guys. Click here to view this wonderful video. He spoke for about 45 minutes making this an hour-and-a-half service overall. If this sermon is ever made available it will be here. (Hillcrest's web site is sadly out of date with the August 28, 2011 sermon as the latest posted, and mid-September announcements still on their home page.)* As the musical group was coming forward, the pastor invited people to come forward to pray in designated areas, while the group ended the service with a beautiful musical selection.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed my visit at Hillcrest Nazarene church. Their service could have been more effective with better service flow. The meet n’ greet was disconcerting after such a worshipful mood was established by the musicians. Their welcome and hospitality could stand more sincere attention, but overall, they did what a good church should do. Regardless of any flaws here, I would venture a repeat visit to this church.