Visiting an Urban “Village Church”

December 3, 2013

My wife Diana and I went on another religabout—our contraction for religion and walkabout, which describes an excursion to observe or experience some religious activity.

This time we visited the “Village Church” in Buffalo, which holds services Sundays in the gymnasium at Nardin Academy. A small group of non-denominational Protestants, they dress informally and offer services with three main elements: music (consisting of acoustic and electric guitars and drums, with a male lead and two female backup singers), teaching (emphasizing how to emulate Jesus), and communion.

For the latter, instead of using individual thimble-sized glasses, or a single shared cup (which can spread mono or other contagious diseases), they practice intinction, in which both elements of the sacrament of Jesus’ Last Supper are administered simultaneously: the piece of bread or wafer is dipped into the wine (often grape juice) before it is placed in the mouth. At Village Church, people go to one of two stands (one on either side at the front) and thus serve communion to themselves, while a special song is played.

The service we attended (Nov. 24, 2013) had an extra, special element: the baptism of three young people (one male, two females) in the community. Again, this was different from the usual baptisms we have witnessed, either in a river (like that of Jesus by John the Baptist, Matthew 3:13–17), or in a built-in church baptistery (where, incidentally, I became a baptized Christian at the age of ten).

In this case they used a portable baptistery (a wood-boxed porcelain tub with steps, brought in by truck for the occasion). Each subject in turn sat down in the water, then was dunked and lifted up again by a minister (who stood outside the portable baptistery).

The Village Church appears to provide the simple basics of a Christian service without (so far as we saw) authoritarianism, extremist dogma, or bigotry. The congregation consisted of blacks and whites, young and old, men and women—although I would have liked to have seen the latter in leadership positions. I would also like to learn more. Of course I would hope for all of them eventually to transcend belief in the supernatural and become secular humanists.