Our Church is Cruisin'

Pastor Kirk really knows how to pack 'em in.

I mean like where does it say in the Bible that church has to be boring? People act as if somewhere in Leviticus or something it says that they've got to tiptoe to the temple dressed in sackcloth and ashes. You know what I'm saying—long faces, dead silence. But then what about David? I mean you read about David dancing it up so wild his wife got steamed!

We got the greatest preacher— Pastor Kirk. I mean, he's not like the dweeb we had for the last millennium. That guy was so ruined he ironed his shirts. I mean, really. But Pastor Kirk is perfect satchmo, you know what I'm saying?

It's like everything is up-tempo. Things really cruise in our church now. I mean, nobody's got the chance to get bored out. No way. Overdrive, man. Full of current.

The first thing Pastor Kirk did was canned the organ stuff before the service. Boooooring! Who needs it anyway—just a chance for some old women to digitate. Instead Kirk brings in these like little Christian cartoons and runs them for almost twenty minutes. Kids love 'em, see, so they're begging their parents to bring them to church. I mean, this Pastor Kirk's got his smarts on, let me tell you.

So we start out with these kids' cartoons. Okay, some of them are kind of mealy—but it's the kids that count, you know. And they drag along their parents. Pastor Kirk figures you get the kids, you get the old man and lady too sooner or later. Maybe not right away, but sometime. Conspiracy-like.

Pastor Kirk pulled our old communion table off the stage too. He just like tore it right off, see, because he wanted the swing choir up there with him the whole time. You can bet that made the music coalition happy too—you know what I mean? We're talking feature entertainment here, week in, week out. Pastor Kirk calls on that choir right in the middle of stuff—like right in the middle of the sermon, he'll stop, and look over there for a minute, and they'll break into a beat.

Oh, man, things buzz in our church. They move!

But that's not all. Pastor Kirk installed this movie screen in the front of the church—I mean like put it in himself with screwdrivers and pliers and the whole works. This Kirk guy is like full of current, see? And during the sermons—well, maybe you can't really call them sermons anymore. They're more like experiences. Anyway, right during the time he's talking, that huge screen will like all of a sudden creep down. Robotics, you know. It's all gizmoed, you know—wired. We're talking 2001 here. Love it!

Anyway, down comes this huge screen, right down over the cross. Impressive. Presto! Video—just like that. Sometimes Dobson, sometimes somebody else smart. Sometimes film clips. I'm not kidding. I don't know how he does it. We saw Indiana Jones dangling from that suspension bridge, you know? Remember that one? Kirk says it's the way we sometimes feel, like we're between a rock and a hard place. I don't know—something like that. I think that's what he meant.

Sports? Of course. We had Kirk Gibson's big homer in the first game of the '88 Series—him limping around the bases, pumping his arm. Dodgers forever. Remember that? It got the whole bunch of us up, you know, just seeing it again. And in the background Sly and the Family Stone were crooning "You can do it if you try." Moving.

No more reading Scripture either. No way. Instant snores, you know? We got this woman, you know, teaches drama down at the JC. She like acts the Scripture out. She walked up there a couple weeks ago dressed like John the Baptist. I'm not lying! And she like acted out the words of the Bible. You should have seen her as Samuel's mother—you know, pleading for a kid? She had the whole works bawling. I mean like Kleenex-time.

And we don't even have offerings anymore. Kirk says people like to give by quotas and envelopes anyway, so they might as well just send in their checks. That way we don't have to waste time with the deacons marching up and down the aisle, standing there by the pews as if somebody died, hands down crossed in front of them. You know?

Snooooore.

Kirk didn't do away with the offering right off. He started out trying to kind of cover it up with singing and even a couple of film loops. He just used the pizzazz to cover up the fact that it was like tax-time, you know—collection. Time to grab your quarters and stick them into your brat's little grubbies. People were bored stiff, he said. He watched them from behind the pulpit, and he said they like faded right off when offering was taken.

So, like I said, first he tried to cover it up, put all this other stuff into the service right over collection. But lately, he just doesn't do it anymore. I mean like, why? People make out their stupid checks when they're writing their bills. So do we have to make this big production number out of it? Get rid of it, Kirk said, and he did it.

No, nobody complains. Of course not. We're like packing the house, man. Who'd fight the feeling?

And the organ's gone. Good riddance, I say. Reminded me forever of the Beaver roller skating with his sweetie, you know? Kirk's got these thumpers the size of Montana wired up in the corners of the place, and he's got everything on tape—I mean, everything: Sandi Patti, Dino, even the New Kids on the Block and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Switches them on, honey, and look out. It's like extrasensory sound. I mean, you're like transfixed. We're talking megawatts here. Current.

The one thing that bores me, though, is what Kirk does near the beginning. I mean, he got rid of the organ, but he's got this thing about fellowship that really grates on me. Every week he's got some gimmick to mix us, you know—like some junior-high party your ma puts on: "Okay, kids, now let's all get to know each other." We're talking industrial-strength wierdness.

Last week Kirk passed out these sheets with little bits of info on members of the congregation. "Who hit three home runs in church Softball on Thursday?" "Who's lost a job this week?" "Who's aunt in Oregon had hip surgery?" That kind of rag, you know? And then we're supposed to like wander around through the pews and pick up the info. Mix it up. Get to know each other. As if I care whose pet toad croaked.

But otherwise it's a scream. No more long prayer. Cut the drowsies, man. I mean like Kirk keeps you by the collar—no more winks. No way. Electricity. The man's wired. Current.Moving.

He does this thing every week called "My Pilgrimage." Asks people to come up front with him and sit on this little bench, you know. I mean, he's a stand-in Phil Donahue. He can do a monologue like Johnny, and he does, too, maybe every other week—one-liners, bing! bing! bing! Just like that. Keeps you rolling.

But like I was sayin', Kirk uses this talk-show format. Interviews people from the church—talks to them ahead of time, I suppose, so they can get their act together. "My Pilgrimage," he calls it. And it's a hoot! Lots of flashy stuff. Arsenio.

We have Pepsi and peanut butter crackers for communion—I'm not kidding. No more white bread and thimble-sips of lukewarm Welches. I mean, there it is, set up to serve in the pew, just waiting for you—48 ounce jugs jammed in ice-cream pails of ice. No more eons of waiting for the old guys to like pass the stuff out. There it is on these TV tables Kirk picked up for a song at the flea market.

Yeah, we've been growing. Of course, we have. People swarm in on Sunday morning. Course we lost a couple of old dinosaurs. Transferred down to the First Church of the Ice Box. Catch my drift?

My grandma left. Said she missed the silence. Can you believe that? Said she liked the quiet parts, didn't mind it when her mind wandered. Said she even liked old "Iron Collar"—you know, our ex? Liked the way he wasn't always on fire because it gave her time to think.

So we lost some, but look what we got. Electricity. No kidding. Going. Moving. Current. Like brutally dynamic. With it, man. I'm not lying. Often as not, Kirk plays to a full house.

And besides, my grandma can go someplace else with her kind, you know. I mean, like this is the 90s, you hear me? Like her and her geriatrics— I mean, who really needs them? We pack the house anyway.

So like they say, pal, "Come on down!"

James Calvin Schaap (jschaap@dordt.edu) is a writer and professor of English at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.