My first impression was the outside of the building, which is a striking piece of antebellum architecture on Ardagh Road. My second impression was how good the music was. Heritage has an excellent pianist and and exceptionally strong choir. The dynamics were expressive, the harmonies were tight, and the arrangements very well executed.
My third impression was that I was probably the only guy in the building not wearing a suit. These places really ought to post a dress-code on their websites!
Things went a bit downhill when we got to the sermon, unfortunately. It began with the standard evangelical nonsense about how God demands that we give 10% of our income to the local church. It bugs me when a church claims to hold the Bible in the highest regard and then jump through all sorts of hermeneutical hoops to arrive at this frankly untenable position.
The rest of the sermon was about the importance of giving money to missionaries. However, it was based on 2 Corinthians chapter 8. This chapter, of course, is where Paul encourages the Corinthians to donate money to poor Christians in Jerusalem. To claim that this passage is about missionaries, rather than the poor, is once again regrettably bad exegesis.
I don’t know why we do this, to be honest. I’m all in favour of people hearing about Jesus, but I don’t know why we need to resort to guilt manipulation and a deeply flawed reading of the New Testament to make it happen.
After the service, a very intense gentleman decided to make me his personal evangelism project. This happens to me quite a lot, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I have some mannerisms that make evangelicals think that I’m not a ‘Real True Christian’, and decide that they have to convert me. I try to listen politely, but I do find myself wishing that people would take the time to get to know me before they feel they can make sweeping judgements about the state of my soul.
So, another ambiguous experience. I will say that I appreciate the passion and focus on telling others about Jesus that Heritage has. I’m less comfortable with the sense of exclusivity that I got. For example, during a short presentation by one of their missionaries we were told that the country of Poland is 90% Catholic – but only 0.1% Christian.
If I have any Catholic readers, I’d love to know how they feel about statements like that. Heritage may not be as obsessively exclusive as, say, the Gospel Hall, but it’s attitudes like this that make me feel I have a long way to go in working towards reconciliation, understanding and co-operation among the churches in the city.