Sunday, May 04, 2008

Church hopping at Proclamation Presbyterian in Bryn Mawr, PA.

This is a rather wealthy suburb of Philadelphia on the "mainline" - meaning the main railway into the city. I inquired if this usage of mainline had anything to do with the term "mainline churches". The answer was that it was unlikely.

To add to the trivia, Scotland has had a number of great exports of which Presbyterianism is one. About a century ago, the US Presbyterian movement was hijacked by universalist theologians. An off-shoot, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), stayed firm to the teaching of the Bible and the Westminster Confession of 1646 - after being evicted from the denomination by the universalists. Originally they were a small splinter group, while the mainline Presbyterians retained most of the buildings, wealth and membership. In recent decades, however, mainline Presbyterians have seen the pews empty out, while the PCA has grown steadily. If you don't believe anything, why go to church?

Proclamation Presbyterian is a moderate sized and fairly wealthy PCA church which is the Presbyterian counterpart to my conservative Baptist roots. As with all conservative churches, they are racist, so they have a Japanese congregation meeting in the building at the same time and the pastor - a professor at Westminster seminary - just returned from two weeks of teaching "Christianity and Western Philosophy" at a major university in Wuhan, China! They send missionaries to Uganda and elsewhere to round things out.

The service featured a string quartet that had something to do with the Philadelphia Orchestra, so it was of a traditional style and degree of talent that I am not sure that I have ever experienced in a worship service before. The pastor was speaking about how the church is "the body of Christ" and all the members need each other, but he mostly spent his time telling stories of China. I would perhaps find it more entertaining to single out two church members who aren't getting along, invite them to stand up, and give them a scolding. This would stay with the theme of the Bible passage better, but the sermon was good anyway.

Given my earlier post on the Quakers, I found it interesting that the pastor mentioned William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania based on his Quakerism. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" was important to William Penn, and he applied this to his treatment of the American Indians and other Christian sects. Of course Bryn Mawr is also noted for the Quaker founded Bryn Mawr college as well as nearby Swarthmore college, both of which are very liberal and rumored to be extremely hostile to Christianity. What an irony that it seems easier for a class to be given on Christianity and Western Philosophy by a Christian in communist China than at Quaker founded colleges in Pennsylvania!

1 comment:

Delirious said...

Oh, I would love to hear his China stories!