Fixed an error from 43-61. I hope it’s all set now.
It’s time I compiled a list of churches I’ve visited in alphabetical order by church name. The number after each church is NOT a ranking, it refers the order in which I visited them and it is meant to help you navigate my archive. I would link them all, but my website doesn’t seem to like that.
All Saints Cathedral (Episcopal) #33
aka under Cathedral
Antioch Christian Fellowship (unknown) #52
Bethlehem Community Church (Nodenom) #5
Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Lutheran- Missouri Synod) #11
Cathedral of All Saints (Episcopal) #33
aka under All
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic) #25
aka under Immaculate
Community United Methodist Church (UMC) #16
aka under Slingerlands
Church of Saint Vincent De Paul (Roman Catholic) #26
aka under ‘Saint’ and ‘Vincent’
Delmar Full Gospel Church (Nodenom) #1
Delmar Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) #15
Delmar Reformed Church (RCA) #10
First Church in Albany (RCA) #39
First Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) #17
First Congregational Church (UCC) #22
First Presbyterian Church of Greenbush (PCUSA) #54
First Reformed Church of Bethlehem (RCA) #19
First United Methodist Church in Delmar (UMC) #14
First United Methodist Church in Rensselaer (UMC) #58
aka under Iglesia
Glenmont Community Church (RCA) #4
Greater Saint John’s Church of God in Christ (COGIC) #51
aka under St. John
Historic Saint Mary’s Church (Roman Catholic) #36
aka under St Mary
Holy Spirit Lutheran (ELCA) #24
aka under Lutheran
Iglesia Emmanuel (UMC) #58
aka under First
Iglesia Pentecostal (Pentecostal) #38
Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic) #25
aka under Cathedral
Jerusalem Reformed Church (RCA) #21
Journey United Church of Christ (UCC) #23
Kingdom Hall in Bethlehem (Jehovah’s Witness) #3
King’s Chapel in Glenmont (Nodenom) #2
Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit (ELCA) #24
aka under Holy Spirit
Mater Christi (Roman Catholic) #61
Metropolitan New Testament Missionary Baptist (NBC) #37
Mother Theresa’s (Roman Catholic) #42
Mount Calvary Baptist Church (NBC) #40
Mount Moriah Church (Nodenom) #7
Mount Zion Missionary Baptist (?) #48
New Hope Ministries (Assemblies of God) #31
New Horizons Christian Church (Pentecostal) #49
Powerhouse City of Deliverance (Pentecostal) #45
Reigning Life Family Church (nodenom) #60
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal (Episcopal) #32
Saint Francis of Assisi Delaware Avenue (Roman Catholic) #41
Saint Francis of Assisi South End (Roman Catholic) #46
Saint George’s Antiochian Orthodox (EO) #29
Saint John’s Church of God in Christ (COGIC) #51
aka under Greater
Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Joseph (Roman Catholic) #59
Saint Mary’s in Albany (Roman Catholic) #36
aka under Historic
Saint Matthew Lutheran Church (Lutheran-Missouri Synod) #18
Saint Michael’s Chapel (Catholic, non-Novus Ordo) #13
Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) #44
Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) #28
Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church (EO) #20
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) #8
Saint Timothy’s Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA) #56
Saint Thomas the Apostle (Roman Catholic) #9
Saint Vincent De Paul (Roman Catholic) #26
aka under ‘Church’ and ‘Vincent’
Slingerlands Community United Methodist Church (UMC) #16
aka under Community
Solid Rock Church (UPCI) #6
South Bethlehem United Methodist Church (UMC) #57
Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church #53 (NBC)
Terra Nova Church #55 (Nodenom)
Third Reformed Church Albany (RCA) #30
True Witness Apostolic Faith Church (TCAF) #34
Union Dutch Reformed Church (RCA) #35
aka under Unionville
Union Missionary Baptist (?) #43
Unionville Reformed Church (RCA) #35
aka under Union Dutch
Vincent De Paul (Roman Catholic) #26
aka under ‘Saint’ and ‘Church’
Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) #27
White Couch Albany (Nodenom) #50
Wilborn Temple First Church of God in Christ (COGIC) #47
EO= Eastern Orthodox
NBC=National Baptist Convention
Nodenom= No denomination given
PCUSA= Presbyterian Church USA
RCA= Reformed Church in America
TCAF= True Church of the Apostolic Faith
UCC= United Church of Christ
UPCI= United Pentecostal Church International
**For further explanation of churches with no denomination, see individual church posts. I try to give explanation when possible as to church origin and philosophy.
*Notice lack of #12? For this one I attended not a public church but instead visited a religious community in Albany called the Bruderhof. The group has a house on Washington Park. They do allow visitors, but they like to be sent a request ahead of time. It is their home after all.
I’m feeling the need to evaluate the project again as a whole. Interestingly, my limit before I want to do this seems to be 30 churches. I decided to re-read all my posts to find out what I’d forgotten about the visits, if anything. After visit #30 I came across the post about how I needed a break to contemplate the project. So that’s helpful, since I can now expect to make it to 90 then take another look back.
After reading through the blog I made notes as sort of a quick reference to each church or religious thought post. Here are the notes, in case you are interested:
Opening post: My rules have changed a lot.
1) Delmar Full Gosp, only negative I rember is pastor’s advice
I couldn’t find St Mikes service time
2) King’s Chapel, story of moon worshipped
3) Jehovah’s Witnesses, kinda scared
4) Glenmont Community, Abby, and friendly people who offer hugs
I reviewed Dogma.
I was so optimistic. What happened?
5) BCC- I was bored
6) Solid Rock actually were several positives here I have forgotten
7) Mount Moriah, wasn’t really that bad. Pastor Jesse seems fine. But the book- so wacky
8) I stayed so long at St Stephens
Also did I cause a dust up over atheists and article 13?
9) St. Thomas, extremely disappointing
10) I forgot how happy Delmar Reform made me. People there were so relaxed and chill.
11) Bethlehem Lutheran gave a null vibe
I got a little discouraged about prayer
13) St Mikes Chapel mentioned a fish carrying a sack symbol
* I drove by The Chapel recently only to discover they finally put up a sign listing mass time. Did I have anything to do with that?
Christianese was the beginning of my discovery into the origins of heaven/hell/purgatory
Christianese was also my first exposure to obviously wrong and bad theology: conceptually and scientifically impossible things
I make the most killer argument against condemning homosexuality!
14) First Methodist- Iona Dickinson- and I did get to hold a baby. High church but very friendly
Was already tired but still fairly optimistic about project outcomes
15) Delmar Presby was a nice first visit
16) Slingerlands UMC, wow, great sunny Methodist service about David’s Ducky. So much to write!
17) Christian Science pretty much just confuses me
18) New low- older membership at St Matts Lutheran church, pastor says when you feel you can give no more, STOP BEING SINFUL AND GIVE MORE
All interim pastors are named Bob
Remember the naked man in the gospels
19) 1st Reformed of Bethlehem in Selkirk, upstairs from food pantry- didn’t do much for me otherwise
I compare the myth of the perfect church to ‘one true love’ and monogamy
20) St Sophia’s was sensory glorious
21) Jerusalem Reformed had an outdoor service and I learned about Michal and David’s underwear
22) Great vibe over at First Congregational. Pastor seems very introspective.
Still fed up about prayer
Retreat with seekers is more of a self reflective baby-holdathon than informative
I was recognized quite a bit in those days, mostly in reform churches
Remember the woman in Ireland named Savita? I wrote about it
Joan of Ark…I crack me up
Santa and Christians rant
I wrote the most awesome stuff about being nice to atheists and everybody
Two posts on good and evil- can good exist in the absence of evil for comparison? If we made a paradise would forgetting evil make us revisit it?
Another pretty awesome piece about Scrooge only realizing his error when it was pointed out that has underpayment of Bob Cratchit sentenced a young innocent to death (Tiny Tim). Repentance of ignorance.
23) I expected great things from Journey UCC and was underwhelmed
24) Holy Spirit ELCA! I felt really welcomed
Freakin amazing Star Trek parallel. I’m on fire baby!
25) Immac Cathedral- how do these people fellowship?
26) Vincent de Paul is for families
27) Westminster Presby nice, church with hotel looking fellowship area. I stayed for after worship discussion of a book pastor is reading
I rambled on empathy
28) St Peters Episcopal- Carly and the five points of view to the prodigal son story
Lent- fasting in the desert, mourning Jesus
29) Cheesefare Sunday at the St George Orthodox Church
Superstar takeaway- we all have it in us to commit violence. We all kill Jesus.
30) Third Reformed- in which I wonder if Jesus ran out of ectoplasm before he could appear to everyone in the entire world. (We heard the story of Thomas)
So that’s notes on half #1 of the project. I was learning a lot along the lines of theologies. In retrospect, I was understanding Christianity as far more similar to itself than I now understand. I forgot several interesting or amusing things from the visits. It’s nice to revisit the different things I wrote and see the positives again.
Church name/type: Mater Christi, Roman Catholic Church- formed from the merger of St Teresa of Avila and St Catherine of Siena in 2009
Pastor: Father Kenneth Doyle
Style of worship: Short formally structured mass
So this church is pretty full, and has a decent mix of ages and ethnicities. I think I see some Philipinos and (I think) some folks from Pakistan or India.
The sermon was on the parable of the wheat and the weeds (or tares). The priest took the usual interpretation of this story and related that it spoke of final judgement. The story describes the farmer collecting the wheat and tares then separating them after the harvest into a pile to save and a pile to be burnt. So those not accepted into heaven are relegated to fire in this metaphor. Father Doyle made a point of cautioning us not to see this story as a source of fear. He reasoned that God created us as a sort of project, hoping we would turn out successfully. If the project was a massive failure God could scrap it at any time. We therefore think most people do make it to heaven. We are always working to be good and when we do sin, we repent of that sin and keep trying.
Interestingly, this brings up something I mentioned in a past post. Repentance in certain Protestant churches is seen as a big one-time occurrence. It is supposed to be the massive life changing event of accepting Jesus. The Catholic idea of repentance seems to be simply the admission of wrongdoing- the equivalent of a confession. I find the Catholic version of repentance more realistic. I myself feel like I am continually working to not commit wrongs. Goodness doesn’t just flow from me via knowing Christ. I still yell, I still misjudge others, I still react in anger. I know I have to face that and continue trying to do better. That, to me, is repentance.
I was literally four minutes late and the mass was basically in full swing when I arrived. Seems like they could hold off five minutes because it’s summer and people run late.
Again no coffee hour to hang around and get to know anybody. Am I weird for wanting one?
So I realized that I’ve been sitting on something really valuable that I ought to share with my readership. Maybe this is obvious, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. I have gotten way, way better at absorbing the actual content of church sermons since I started taking notes. Things just sink in better if I write them down. The Catholic churches I was brought up in were formal to the point of assuming the ‘tweens and older would sit respectfully still during mass. Babies crying were expected to be rushed out into a hall or nearby room to minimize noise disruptions. This lent an air of not wanting to appear distracted. As such I never felt comfortable taking notes. With the advent of my project I became an observer. It freed me to be able to do things like dress in jeans, leave early, or take notes during a sermon. This has shown itself to be something of an unexpected perk. Because of this project I’m accumulating a much higher volume of information on religious topics. This comes not just from the sermon content but from the readings of scripture and even the songs we sing. There are so many things to notice. And I can write most of them down in my hard copy journal. I’m sure there are others out there not doing this who could benefit from note-taking. We do go to church to learn about God, don’t we? We shouldn’t feel weird about treating the sermons as lessons with the pastor or deacon as the teacher.
There is something that’s really beginning to bug me about some Christians. Namely the conflation of all types and flavors of Christianity as the same thing. I will eventually be reviewing a book that has been tending strongly towards this. Speaking broadly, all Christians only have one common feature: they all feel they are following Christ. Traditionally, most Christians have a number of other beliefs in common perhaps best demonstrated by the Nicean Creed. There are various iterations of this creed. Here is one I found from an Episcopal source:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Many churches use this or a variant of this to describe their beliefs. So all Christians are the same then, right? Sorry, no. Christianity extends beyond just these core beliefs. Take it from someone who’s seen 50+ churches- all the Christianites differ in ways that range from slight to major. Sometimes these additional beliefs remain unspoken, sometimes they are incorporated in the service each week. It’s been my experience that churches and denominations each have their own take on topics like; gay marriage, conversion and outreach, gender roles, environmentalism, the end times, prayer and more I haven’t encountered (or am forgetting). In short, although each church may have a very similar creed, they all have other beliefs too that differ from each other. What’s more, they all claim those other beliefs flow from their Christianity just as much as the creed does.
Because of these many differences, it is silly to make declarative statements like “Christianity promotes peace.” Which Christianity? Whose Christianity? Is that really Christianity’s focus as a whole? Is there anything that can be said to be Christianity’s focus as a whole? Even conversion to Christianity is not a focus for certain groups (in say, the Catholic Church for example). I contend that there is very little (if anything) that can be said of Chistianity as a whole. Anyone saying otherwise is either lying, being vague, or deceiving themselves.
Church name/type: Reigning Life Family Church/ non-denominational
Pastor: Fred Sanles
Style of worship: Musical praise first, followed by message
This church visit elicited an interesting (and I might say confusing) mix of emotions and reactions in me. I experienced some strong negatives and strong positives.
Size and demographic: The church was small, around 20 people. It might be worth noting that this church has predominantly Black membership with White leadership. I don’t think any other churches I’ve visited have had this combination. Looking around the church website, I also noticed that the pastor and his wife specifically chose to locate and launch a church in Albany’s South End; they aren’t originally from South End or Albany. This may explain the unusual combination.
The vibe: This week I misunderstood service start time and arrived late. Because of this I didn’t get to talk with anyone before service began. After the service, I was immediately greeted and welcomed into a group of women sharing vacation photos. It felt like the weekly potluck dinners my friends host where you show up and you’re immediately ‘in’. I have to be honest here and say this doesn’t often happen at churches with predominantly Black attendees. Usually I am politely left alone or smothered with simple hellos and that’s the end of it. The fact that interactions in other churches of similar demographic have been limited was something of a mystery. The assumption I’d been leaning towards was that we felt the divide, culturally somehow and didn’t quite know how to find the similarities and just start talking, or when we did talk it became clear our lives were somewhat different. Whatever the cause normally, this week I felt like I was swept right into belonging.
After service I also tend to try to find the pastor and chat with her/him. Now, because I work to understand many versions of Christianity (and how they formed, church history, denominational differences, theologies, etc) I sometimes find I have much in common with the pastor. After all, most pastors go to school to understand things like theology and church history. This week however I found it very difficult to relate to the pastor and pastor’s wife. The pastor didn’t have very much to say to me actually. We had both been talking with other people and then spoke briefly, though it was mostly about the church website being unfindable. The pastor’s wife, however, tried to talk with me for several minutes. I say tried because she talked but it didn’t feel like we were making much of a connection. She showed me the church in a quick tour and introduced me to anyone who happened to be standing nearby. It all felt a little random. Then at the end of our conversation she told me she was aware the service wasn’t relevant to the younger generation. To fix this she said they were planning to have a weeknight service that was more ‘urban’. She added that the youth were more used to ‘rap and hip-hop’ and that they hoped implementing different music and technology would be better for the younger crowd. I asked her if she had gotten input from the youth with this plan and she assured me “Oh yes. This is what they want.” I guess I was hesitant to believe that was the case based on use of terminology. The terms she used: rap, hip-hop, urban, and technology are all very buzzy words that may sound good to some, but do they really convey anything relevant? Rap and hip-hop are musical styles. Kids today, as kids of every age, listen to different things. It’s somewhat naive to assume the entire younger demographic will be attracted by this specific change in musical genre and the addition of technology. Content is equally (if not more!) important. You cannot simply spruce up a message by using flashier effects and different music. You have to address topics your target age group is interested in. It also strikes me as misplaced to refer to these stylistic changes as ‘urban’. I know the word ‘urban’ is sometimes used as slang to replace the word ‘Black’. I also know technically ‘urban’ just means in the city. If the youth of this church are on-board with calling what they want ‘urban’ I guess that’s fine. It’s also fine with me if they have really requested rap, hip-hop, and splashier technology. It’s simply hard for me to ignore the fact that these ideas also happen to fit with stereotypes of what youth (and Black youth) are interested in. I seriously hope this doesn’t represent a disconnect between the church membership and leadership.
Although it seems likely the pastor’s wife is out of touch with the younger generation(s), the attempt to relate to youth is at least admirable. I hope they can find a way to actually do it in a productive, respectful manner.
We heard that laughter releases good chemicals into the bloodstream. Laughter is something we should do more of.
I also thought the end of the message regarding unity was nice. We need to put up with one another. That sounds about right.
Well the bulk of the sermon didn’t really do it for me this week. I noticed some strong contradictions and a few disconcerting patterns. One thing that bugs me is when a message feels forced on the listeners. I mean, yes, obviously I choose to show up at these churches and hear what’s being said. What I’m talking about is when the message is spoon-fed to an audience who is then meant to regurgitate the words verbatim just so the speaker can be sure it’s been received. It treats the audience like children. While I understand a speaker feeling like he is speaking to a bunch of easily distractable toddlers, I don’t want to know that’s how I’m being seen. In this case I got a similar feeling from the repeating technique Pastor Sanles was using. He just kept giving us phrases to repeat back at him. It was weird. It was mildly humiliating. It was vaguely brainwashy. I don’t mind reading things collectively. Churches do this all the time with statements of faith like the Nicean Creed. But the repeating thing was done in small bites with no printed guide. I couldn’t be sure of what we were all talking about until the very end. At least with the Nicean Creed you can see the words you are about to recite and decide if it’s something you want to declare out loud.
Disconcerting bit number two was the assertion that worry is a type of sin. Already this creates it’s own problem. I mean- if it bothers you that you sin through worry, it will probably cause you to worry more. The pastor went on to say that worry would lead to fear which would let the devil in. Great, now we have to be concerned this little worry-go-round is going to lead us directly to the devil? Worry is definitely a problem, but calling it a sin that can lead directly to evil seems like a really unhealthy and unhelpful way to think about it- especially given the fact that there was no further elaboration. Can we at least have some strategies for avoiding worry (and therefore sin)? I think it’s a major problem that the sermon did not immediately stop and address this.
The third thing that struck me as problematic was an odd idea about prayer and healing. Pastor Sanles said we are praying over and over for healing but not being healed. The repeated prayers are (according to Pastor) precisely why we do not receive healing. He instructed us to stop praying and just have faith the work is already done. I guess on the one hand I feel like this is trying to say something helpful. It gives a reason prayers are not answered and offers a solution, albeit a strange one; stop praying. On the other hand it calls into question the faith of the unhealed, which is a way of blaming the suffering for their pain. I’m not ok with that.
Another little bit of negativity came while the pastor was describing his recent attempts to fix his washing machine. His point was something about how faith in God helped him achieve success. In the middle of the story he stopped to explain that he’d asked his wife to hold the flashlight for him as he worked. Then, she tried to tell him how to fix it! He laughed as if this was already a great joke and added, “I told her to go back to her garden!” Lest any readers think this was an inside joke on her personal skills (some individuals are better at gardening than mechanics after all), he then added, “and the husbands said AMEN!” So it was meant as a funny joke that’s only funny if you are sexist.
Finally I will mention a point that was made and later contradicted. Early to mid-sermon we heard that following God might require us to fight our senses and our emotions. Not that I think this point makes a lot of sense, mind you- but even if it did, the later part of the sermon spoke of needing to follow our instincts in figuring out what God has in mind for us. Call me crazy, but ‘senses’ ‘emotions’ and ‘instincts’ all sound rather interchangeable. Here we are being told to follow God by ignoring what we detect inside us but also to trust what we detect inside us. I hope every week’s sermon doesn’t contain this much contradiction.
Website: For whatever reason it’s virtually impossible to find the church website online. It just doesn’t turn up at all via google search. Here it is so you can check em’ out yourself Reigning Life Church
I am very torn. I found a possible gap in the leadership vs congregation and saw serious problems with the sermon. If I was truly in the market for a “home church” I don’t think I’d return to hear more nonsense from the pulpit. On the other hand I was welcomed warmly by several members who even seem to be approximately my age. I guess I find this frustrating because I like friendly people; I just couldn’t bring myself to attend a church that preaches so much I can’t get behind.