By Randall Balmer
In 1950, Christian Century ran a sequence of articles on twelve church buildings, a few huge, a few small, every one representing a strand of yank mainline Protestantism. Now, approximately fifty years later, Randall Balmer--author and host of Mine Eyes Have obvious the Glory, the acclaimed booklet and PBS sequence on American evangelicism--has revisited every one of those twelve church buildings to take the heartbeat of Protestantism this day. the result's a amazing narrative, graced with touches of neighborhood colour and noteworthy graphics of the folks concerned, and jam-packed with deft observations and punctiliously nuanced insights approximately Protestantism at century's end.
a lot as he did in Mine Eyes Have obvious the Glory, Balmer crisscrosses the United States to provide us a first-hand examine how Christianity has fared within the final half-century. What emerges is a church challenged through reduced effect, yet with indicators of desire for the long run. for example, he's taking us to West Hartford, Connecticut, the place we learn the way a gregarious pastor, Bob Heppenstall, rekindled the spirit of the 1st Church of Christ Congregational--still housed in its stately, vintage New England meetinghouse--that had suffered from inept administration until eventually fresh years. And in Ames, Iowa, on the Collegiate United Methodist Church, we watch George White fight to regain his church's as soon as dominant voice within the non secular lifetime of town, a voice now dimmed via the expansion of fundamentalism. a few church buildings have held steadfastly to customary roles, corresponding to the Washington Prairie Lutheran Church, in Decorah, Iowa, which has been a version of continuity, serving its Norwegian-American group in a lot a similar method because it used to be based in 1851. And Balmer additionally visits a few thriving church buildings, reminiscent of Hollywood's First Presbyterian Church, led via the good preacher John Lloyd Ogilvie, who was once lately appointed chaplain of the U.S. Senate. In Minneapolis, Balmer encounters Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, a congregation that has not just elevated its club, yet can now name itself the most important Lutheran church within the world.
In Grant Us Courage, considered one of our so much considerate chroniclers of the yankee scene bargains an intimate examine mainline Protestantism on the shut of the century. We come away with the sensation of getting been there, of getting listened to the voices of an incredible phase of Christian existence, and of getting came upon a deeper knowing of non secular lifestyles in the US at the present time.
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Additional info for Grant Us Courage: Travels Along the Mainline of American Protestantism
We recognize their birthdays, their wedding anniversaries, the anniversaries of the 38 / GRANT US COURAGE death of their spouse," he said. On most Sundays there are twenty-four shut-ins on the line, and participation, he said, was nearly 100 percent. According to Juvinall, the Sunday school class has "developed into a caring community. " Other senior citizens remain quite active in the church. The Senior Friendship Club meets every Friday morning at ten o'clock. " Kriss Woollens began attending in 1948.
A number of parishioners spoke of the sense of community at the church, but the congregation is really the aggregate of many different constituencies or communities, and I left Columbus not entirely persuaded that First Community Church was any greater than the sum of its parts. That is, the church has sustained itself over the years by catering aggressively to various age and interest groups, thereby adopting the same formula used so successfully by such "megachurches" as Calvary Chapel and the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, and Willow Creek Community Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
Grew from fifty-eight congregations to sixty-five congregations during the eighties and tallied an aggregrate gain of roughly three thousand members. 1 But even the numbers don't tell the whole story. Central Florida has several megachurches, whose adherents don't always show up in denominational membership statistics. The behemoth structures, surrounded by acres and acres of parking, bear names like First Baptist Church and Calvary Assembly. Orlando Christian Center, for instance, headed by the flamboyant and controversial Benny Hinn, claims a membership of seven thousand.
Grant Us Courage: Travels Along the Mainline of American Protestantism by Randall Balmer