A Well-Orchestrated Patriotic Presentation

She has posted on Facebook before about her participation in her church’s services, but when she posted on a Saturday that she was looking forward to a patriotic celebration at a Saturday evening service, I asked for directions and Joan and I went to a Patriotic celebration called “The Next Generation”.

The musicians on stage were surrounded by red/white/blue internally lighted pillars. Behind them was a sparkly Statue of Liberty and a huge American Flag.

The first speaker introduced himself as a recent grad who would be going into the military, and led the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance. A middle school girl led in the singing of the National Anthem.

Some of the music talked about passing the torch. As they sang the songs of each branch of the military, someone lead a procession by carrying the flag of that branch, followed by a uniformed church member and several elementary school aged children. The children had memorized the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

There was a video presentation by a WWII member talking with and about two high school graduates going into the military. He spoke of feeling comfortable with the next generation.

The crowd gave a standing ovation as the military representatives recessed from the stage…..they returned later carrying lighted torches, followed again by the young children.

The focus of the service was to thank those who served and are serving and to encourage the church to raise the next generation to be willing to serve.

When the music and pageantry were over, the pastor got up and tied it all together with a sermon called “The Next Generation; Great Citizens and Good Soldiers of Christ”, using the first seven verses of 2 Timothy 2, as Paul writes to Timothy about carrying on.

It was a moving and effective service and I’m glad I went.

Some misc observations from the evening (note that this is a very large church in comparison to my moderately small one).

  • We were warmly greeted by the door opener and by the person handing us a program, but no other person spoke to us, other than in the brief meet/greet time. Of course, there were a lot of people there who were not church members. But I can see how easily it could be to be the person who sneaks in/out of a service without ever being noticed. Pastor did mention a huge number of small groups that meet outside of services, which is where the church members can really minister to each other.
  • As we took our seats, we saw a count-down clock on the two large screens up front. The music started exactly at 0:00. An effective way, I thought, to encourage people to be in their seats and discontinue their conversations.
  • We were never given the name of the pastor or the music leader (his wife). We didn’t see the pastor’s name on any sign outside, it was not in the program/bulletin, and he did not introduce himself. I understand humility, but I would have liked to know who I was listening to.
  • In announcing the collection of the offering, the pastor made it clear that they did not expect contributions from visitors. Classy. Those visiting were invited, but not implored, to fill out information if they wanted to hear more from the church. No pressure. Good.
  • Everything went on the screen, including the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, God Bless America and anything else the congregation was asked to say or sing.
  • Although a special service, Saturday evening is a regular service.
  • The orchestra included a front and center row of violins (mostly a single family) and a contingent of brass, drum set and keyboard (this was a Saturday service….may be more on Sunday, don’t know). There were about 20 singers, splitting and to the side of the instrumentalists – each with an individual wireless microphone.
  • Lighting was well-coordinated; darker during the presentations and lighter during the sermon. I noticed that lights came on in stages so as not to cause congregants to squint from sudden brightness. Nice touch.
  • Like another large church we visit periodically, all the music was at the beginning of the service…..in this case for about 30 minutes, and then the stage clears with the musicians and singers came back into the service with most sitting in some areas of pews that, from my theatre style seating at the back of the auditorium, appeared to be beside the platform and almost behind the pastor who spoke from a carried on lectern placed on a part of the stage that slightly resembles the small area in front of the stage on the Jay Leno show where the host gives his opening monologue. He was easy to see.
  • Did not see or hear an organ. Do they even put those in new churches?
  • Following the service, as hundreds of cars were attempting a complex traffic flow interrupted by walkers going to their cars, there was a high level of patience and caring demonstrated — totally different from leaving a high school parking lot following a sports event or even a concert.
  • The campus was beautifully designed and perfectly manicured.

I would visit this church again.

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