December 25th, 2005

buzzed, B&W


A band playing the Contra video game music in time to people playing the game . . . . Apparently it's all live, with people playing the video game while the band plays the appropriate music.

Small world coincidence: I'm looking at the band website mentioned at the end of the video clip, and in their list of shows, they've got a show with Japanther at Oberlin. Why's that a small world coincidence? Japanther is Vanek's little brother's band . . . Apparently this is a picture of the kid . . .
buzzed, B&W


First things first, I saw a United Methodist Church commercial, I think at the airport or something the other day, and I was pretty impressed. (The "I Believe" tv spot is here.) Transcript of the commercial:
I believe no one who asks for help should be turned away. I believe it's good to question. None of us are qualified to judge the lives of others. I believe a church isn't a building. When you truly embrace diversity, you embrace God. I can't believe there's a church that believes these things. We may not all believe exactly the same thing but the people of the United Methodist Chruch believe in God and each other. If you're searching for something to believe in, our hears, our minds, and our doors are always open.

Anyway, the United Methodist Church is pretty liberal, and my parent's church, Ginghamsburg United Methodist (GUM) is a strong example of how liberal it is. Let's put things into perspective - GUM is a large church, with weekend attendance of around 4,000 people (not counting classes or anything) split over the multiple services (I think six total?) We went to the last of eight Christmas Eve services (10:00 PM) and there were probably 800 people there. The church has definitely grown over the years, and the presentation has gotten slicker and slicker. They've got a large projection screen (maybe 15' or so?), and the polish in the worship ceremony is apparent. The praise was with a live band consisting of 3 strings, a woodwind player, a full drum set, 2 guitars (one electric, one acoustic), a bass, two keyboard players, and a 20+ member choir. The numbers were all contemporary, charged, fast tempo tunes, drawing the congregation in (which is exactly the point of praise before the sermon). The church has definitely diversified, with more faces of color in the crowd. It was interesting to see a large black woman, belting out a jazzy rendition of Joy to the World or some other Christmas carol in a stereotypically black church manner, and the crowd responding like you were at Southern Baptist church in the deep south.

I was impressed by just how coordinated everything was . . . the worship mixes live music, spoken verse, video, etc and it's all timed. There's video with pauses in it for live, spoken word, and the guy in front of me (we were in the second row) had the script to the worship, and it was as complicated as any stage directions for full on stage productions, with music, lighting, marks, etc. They're also slick enough that they have the sermons online for download - streaming video, podcasts, text, study guides, etc. Very impressive.

Mike Slaughter, the pastor, is an impressive speaker, who has a true gift for public speaking. The church has the philosophy that they'll make the Word as accessible to the people as possible, so rather than asking people to turn to Bible verses, they'll be on slides during his sermon (an example of presentation software/slides used in a manner that enhances, rather than distracts from a speaker). His sermon last night included him talking about how he was paddled in school, and it even involved him describing how the administrators would tell him to "assume the position" and him acting out on stage how he had to bend over and grab his ankles before being paddled. I can't imagine that flying at a conservative church.

The numbers are staggering as well - Slaughter mentioned in his sermon that last year on the Christmas Eve services they raised $317,000. Wow. GUM impresses me in that it's community building. For all the VISTA projects in Montana, we focus on the Community Tool Box model, and it's amazing how many examples of this at work you see at GUM.

I'm still a non-believer, but it's impressive what GUM has managed to build over the last 18 or so years, starting from a tiny little podunk church in a field, to becoming the 3rd largest United Methodist church . . .
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buzzed, B&W

Church Story

Hmm, so I forgot to mention in the last post that before the service started, I was getting a cup of tea (the church has free tea/coffee stands), and this guy stops me and asks me if I'm a student. I explain no, that I'm just visiting from Montana, at which point he tells me he worked three summers in Montana at Glacier. Then he goes on to explain how he had a hard time as he's a natural biologist, and tells me how he believes in a supernatural being controlling evolution and things. Before he had gotten that far, I had almost made some comment about ID and the recent court case, but I bit my tongue.

Ends up he had stopped me as he was looking at starting a men's choir, and was looking for diversity, wanting Asians, Hispanics, etc. So, in other words he stopped to talk to me cause he thought I'd be a good messenger for God, and I would help him beet his Asian quota . . .
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One more church thing . . .

I forgot that they had a solo guy with an acoustic perform the Goo Goo Dolls' Better Days . . . I knew the song was familiar while it was playing, but I couldn't think of the artist . . . just looked it up now . . .
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