A Tirade For The Trendy Church

In this July 14, 2013 photo, Pastor Carl Lentz, foreground, leads a Hillsong NYC Church service at Irving Plaza in New York.
In this July 14, 2013 photo, Pastor Carl Lentz, foreground, leads a Hillsong NYC Church service at Irving Plaza in New York. With his half-shaved head, jeans and tattoos, Lentz doesn't look like the typical religious leader. But with its concert-like atmosphere and appeal to a younger demographic, his congregation, Hillsong NYC, is one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in the city. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

I get up early on Sunday morning and drive to the manufacturing district, which is totally desolate. I'm self-conscious because I'm visiting a hipster church. Naked, too, because I've got no tats. Not even a Bible verse across my ribs from my grad school days. And, at 59, I'm totally grey. My beard. Even my chest hair. (My ear hair isn't, but it's growing long because I'm old.) My eyebrows, too, they're going grey. Legit not on fleek, so I'm embarrassed to begin with. I park my 2004 Honda Odyssey a ways away, obvs, and walk toward the front door of a warehouse building at the end of a deserted street. Totally trendy sign on the side of the building. They open the door for me and smile and say, "Hi! Welcome!" and hand me a piece of paper.

So far, so good. #awesome

Inside is hip, too. To the left, there's a white wall with little rectangular tiles the size of small bricks at the back of a coffee bar. Java! Yaaaaas! Now I'm right at home because I'm from Seattle. So I ask for decaf, but they literally don't even have it. That's right. I'm grey--and can't drink regular. But they're not old. They can drink regular. #typical. I drink pouch-poured hot chocolate. So I feel a little less welcome, but it's my fault (or my body's fault) I can't turn up like I used to.

I look around. There's a little alcove to the right where you walk into the worship space. It has repurposed wood walls. In the middle is a wood cross made up of small, square, rusty nails. Literally so freaking cool.

Now the backstory. (I didn't grow up with this word, so it must be trendy, right?) I taught a class this week on the Holy Spirit. I wanted us to be somewhere Pentecostal or charismatic--somewhere growing--on Sunday. There's just 7 of us altogether in the squad. Two white guys in our 50s. Two guys in their 20s, a young white guy, and an Indian guy (his parents are from India). A 40-something red-head, and 2 African-American women, 1 in her 50s, 1 in her 60s.

Why do you need to know that? Because the people at the church we visited were mostly white. I'm talking 96% white. And mostly young.

So the 7 of us come early because the website, which is totally hip, says Sunday worship begins at 10. It doesn't. It begins at 10:20. Because starting on the hour or half hour would be way too mainstream.

So what to do? We stand in a small half moon in the little alcove which most of the regulars have to pass through to get to the 10:20 service. In and out they go, out and in, passing our little multicultural half-moon without a word. In and out. Out and in. Not a word. Not one.

30 minutes of silence.

1800 seconds tick by without a hello.

I know a lot of people are angry at the suit-and-tie, Sunday-best church. And a lot of churches, with speakers sporting tattoo sleeves, are giving them a home where they don't have to get bored or angry or petulant. The main speaker--the pastor, I guess--talked about dry church.

The church I'm attending is not dry, of course. They're wet. They don't have the crinkly skin or decrepit traditions of old people and obsolete churches.

You're angry at dry church.

You're bored by dry church.

You're sick of dry church.

I get it.

But are you much different from dry church? Or any better, really? When 7 people--people who look a lot different from most of you--stand and half-moon you in the alcove, why don't you stop to say hello?

You don't shake our hands.

You don't smile.

You don't tell us your name.

And admit it. You know we're not one of yours. A 66-year-old African American woman? No way. An Indian? I didn't see one. Except for my student. And there are 7 of us standing at the entrance to the worship room, which has more repurposed wood and a skylight and stark concrete warehouse walls and a drummer in a glass box.

I'm angry.

I'm bored by hipster inhospitality.

I'm irked by Bohemian indifference.

I'm annoyed by trendy aloofness.

No, that's not right.

I'm sad. Disappointed that a church which, on its website, claims that thousands have been touched by its members, couldn't greet strangers in their midst. Their website even makes a lot of going in to worship and out to serve.

So in and out they go. Out and in they come. And not one word of welcome. No. Not one.