Written by: GEORGE HALITZKA & ZACH NORD
THIS MONTH’S CHURCH HOP
Name: Second Presbyterian Church
Location: 3701 Old Brownsboro Road, Louisville
Service Times: Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Size: Medium — we couldn’t find attendance statistics on the website, but we estimate 700 people in two weekend services
Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA)
Senior Pastor: Dr. David Meriwether, Interim Pastor
You Might Like This Church If: You live in St. Matthews and don’t mind donning a suit on Sundays
The Church Hoppers visited on April 20, 2008. Source for church facts: www.2ndpreslou.org
Zach works at Starbucks, and I’m a freelance writer. So neither of your Church Hoppers are in danger of discovering how the other half lives.
We did find out how they worship, however … and it wasn’t thrilling.
“I fell asleep during the sermon,” Zach confessed.
We visited Second Presbyterian Church in St. Matthews. As Zach put it, this was a “Hoity-Toity” congregation. There were pricey SUVs in the parking lot, droning readings during worship, and no jeans in sight … except the ones worn by your humble Hoppers.
I guess our apparel gave us away as outsiders, because a lady leaned over and asked me if I was in seminary. I told her my wife is a student, which is true. But that didn’t explain why I was scrawling in a notebook during the service. “So you’re taking notes for your wife?” she asked, a bit confused.
“In a manner of speaking,” I stammered.
Lord, please forgive me for the fib. That’s the closest your Church Hoppers have come to losing our incognito.
No Bible-thumping here
Second Presbyterian is a “progressive” congregation: They’re in no danger of turning fundamentalist. On the other hand, I wondered during the service if they believe in anything.
The prayer of confession began like this: “God our light, our savior, our home: We humble ourselves before you, having refused many of your gifts.”
It continued in the same vein, with vague confessions designed to induce zero guilt. So I guess lying, stealing and adultery are called “refusing God’s gifts” nowadays. (Call me judgmental; I thought they were a big deal.)
Rev. David Meriwether preached from John 14:6, where Jesus proclaims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Meriwether condemned Fundies for emphasizing the latter part of the verse (“no one comes to the Father but through me”) and ignoring the former. He said that conservatives are “setting limits on who may be saved.”
“Too often, the Church has said — in effect — that it doesn’t matter how you behave, as long as you believe the right way,” said Meriwether. “The time has come for every Believer to think less about the believing of others,” and more about his or her own behavior.
That’s a good message, so far as it goes. You’ll find plenty of hypocrites behind the door of every church, and I support anybody who calls them out. But Meriwether’s statements about belief disturbed me. He said that within his flock, there was disagreement over many aspects of Jesus’ ministry, like whether he did miracles. And that apparently doesn’t concern him.
I believe in freedom of religion. If you don’t think miracles exist, disbelieve in good health. If you think Jesus rising again is a myth, it’s not my job to convince you. But claiming to be a Christian should mean something. Zach is still exploring faith, and even he thought Meriwether’s sermon was strange.
“Maybe the pastor needs to go back and reread his books — especially the Book.”
At least the choir was good
Second Presbyterian did have some redeeming qualities. “The most exciting thing for me was hearing the choir sing,” Zach said. “I was amazed by their harmonies, and it sounded so good in their sanctuary.”
I really appreciated the architecture. I’m a sucker for cool stained glass windows.
But we didn’t leave on a positive note. As we departed, Meriwether shook my hand and thanked me for visiting. Then he gave Zach an enthusiastic high-five.
“I’m not 12!” baby-faced Zach protested later. “OK, I may look 12 — but a pastor needs to treat everyone with the same respect. That really offended me.”
I think Zach summed it up best when he exclaimed, “We just weren’t feelin’ that church.” I’ll say “amen” to that.
The Church Hoppers don’t write about religion to offend people. Actually, they like church! They’re just searching for congregations that genuinely connect people to God. Write to George and Zach at [email protected]