Monday, June 15, 2015

The Mystery Worshiper Hits UCG For Pentecost, Finds Cliquish People But Lots of Eye Candy

Ah United.....what are we going to do with you?  Absolutely nothing you seem to do anymore is right!  After you dumped close to $100,000 on a failed campaign in Cincinnati, changed your web site to hide your doctrines and claiming to be God's best church ever, you still screw it all up.  Even Jelly cant get you out of your mess!

A delightful entry is on the Ship of Fools web site.  They have people who are "mystery worshipers" who attend services in churches around the world and report back on how the service went and if it had any spiritual benefits.

The reviewer writes:
What was the name of the service?
Pentecost Service.

How full was the building?
Completely full. There were 330 chairs set out (I know because the worship leader mentioned it) and more had to be brought in. Lots of children and youth plus adults of all ages. Everyone was dressed in their, erm, Sabbath best. I had chosen my nicest Pentecost red outfit but felt somewhat underdressed nonetheless.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. One or two people shook my hand and said hello, but I was ignored for the most part.

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard hotel conference chair – comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Everyone was standing around visiting with friends. Most of the seats had been “saved” with papers, hymnals, water bottles, jackets, etc. placed on them. As I started taking notes my pen went dry, and I went out to the hotel’s front desk to see if I could borrow another one. When I returned, someone had taken my seat. I spied a lone chair against the back wall and made for it.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“All right. It’s that time.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
United Church of God Hymnal. There was no program or order of service.

What musical instruments were played?
Digital piano.
 So far it sounds like a typical Church of God's boring service...until the reviewer writes this:
 Did anything distract you?
There was lots of eye candy – handsome young men very smartly dressed.

This will certainly freak out UCG, but I don't know why it should, since there are quit a few gay people in UCG.  I am glad to see it more open now.

Then more fun:

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Not happy-clappy but relaxed nonetheless. The hymns were all traditional-sounding although I recognized few of them. The service opened with three hymns, followed by a prayer and a sermonette. Then the collection was taken up. Just for the occasion I had prepared a special Mystery Worship Calling Card that included an icon of St Valentine, which I deposited in the basket when it came my way. The collection was followed by a vocal solo, announcements, and the main sermon. The service concluded with a closing hymn and a prayer.
Poor Randy Schreiber.  Everyone knows his sermons are boring as hell because he rambles on and on,  so it must be really shocking that a person who hears him for the first time also found him to be rambling way too much.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – That’s the average score, as I would give Pastor Schreiber a 4 and the sermonette preacher a 6. Both spoke in a relaxed, conversational style and made good eye contact with the congregation, but I also think both of them rambled. Pastor Schreiber’s sermon was well constructed and had an interesting theme, but he rambled way too much for me to score him any higher. He spoke for 50 minutes but could have made his point in 10. The congregation were politely attentive throughout, but there was a palpable sigh of relief when he finally walked away from the lectern.
Schrieber has the same issue 99% of the other men in the UCG and COG has; hey don't know when to shut up.  Countless "points" and mindless rambling do NOT a sermon make!  An effective sermon can say everything that is needed in 20 minutes.  Quoting three pages of scripture out of a Strong's Concordance does not accomplish anything but distract members from paying to much attention because they are kept busy looking things up.

The UCG congregation did put their best foot forward and showered the visitor with Christian love though................................NOT!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the final prayer, people started visiting again. Eventually they began walking out into the lobby and out the doors. I stood around both inside the ballroom and in the lobby, but no one noticed me or said anything to me.
 Then the visitor makes a comment that is an apt description of most COG's.  Cliquish!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – I’d like to drop in on one of their regular Sabbath services to see if they’re structured the same way. The traditional music was refreshing, and everyone sang with gusto, but I’d want tighter preaching. Also, they seemed very cliquish and unwelcoming of visitors, but that may just have been the unaccustomed venue. If they were that way at their temple services, I wouldn’t be back.
So did this UCG church put God's best interests forward in showcasing how they love Jesus? Not so much:
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I’m going to say “neutral” on this one.
 The the review closes with this delightful comment....
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The eye candy. Pity they’re so down on the notion of St Valentine’s Day!

The entire review can be found here:  2864: United Church of God, Tempe, Arizona, USA


Anonymous said...

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is hilarious!

Anonymous said...

I saw how cliquish many of these people were when they were in Pasadena. So many looked upon themselves as the "elite" of the church. There was no way I would ever have joined UCG just because of this! Why join with them to be further treated like dirt.

Anonymous said...

Eye candy indeed! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I got the impression that the visitor was a woman, not a gay man. Sounds like boring services are about the same as always.

Byker Bob said...

A couple of surprises. In the olden days, an "outsider" such as this would have been spotted and asked to leave. Of course on holy days, sometimes there could be out of town or out of state visitors. A non-member could pass themselves off as perhaps being from Kansas, so long as too deep questions were not asked. . Secondly, 330 attendees? This would have to be one of the larger surviving congregations in COGdom.

So Randy Schreiber grew up to be a minister? Not surprising. His dad was one. Guess there are lots of surprises for an individual who left right after the false prophecy disappointment of 1975.

Lastly, those group leaders who wonder why ACOGs don't attract many newbies should carefully reread and consider this mini expose. It was written apparently by a neutral church-hopper, and not by a person who had suffered a bad church experience at the hands of Armstrongism in the past.

It just blows my mind that someone actually did this, and wrote about it!


Anonymous said...

One of the most astute observations: "He spoke for 50 minutes but could have made his point in 10."

And how spot-on is the follow up? "The congregation were politely attentive throughout, but there was a palpable sigh of relief when he finally walked away from the lectern."

I wouldn't lay odds on any of the COGs taking such comments to heart.