Ecclesia

This morning I visited Ecclesia, Houston’s leading example of an “emerging church.” A friend, David Capes, is one of the elders. The church has Baptist roots, and once met at South Main Baptist (see this article by Terry Mattingly), but folks of many backgrounds were involved in this new plant, which for the last few years has called 2115 Taft Street home. It’s in Montrose, a neighborhood known more for its gay bars and street hustlers, as well as the University of St. Thomas and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

2115 Taft includes a coffee house, bookstore, art gallery, offices, and the worship space. You enter, and the worship space is a boxy warehouse. Ductwork is visible, the walls are cinder block. The platform and backdrop are made of unpainted plywood, decorated only with a variety of mismatched wrought iron candle stands and a plethora of candles. On one wall is a giant triptych of three abstract crucifixes; two are black canvas squares, revealing only the hands and feet of those crucified; the center is a golden cross, shaped somewhat like the San Damiano crucifix, and, like its partners, showing only hands and feet, but these are sculpted in white plaster.

I arrived about 10:15. No one greeted me as I entered, though the space was beginning to fill. I took a seat in the middle, a few seats into the row, and watched as other worshipers arrived. There are some people my age and older, but it was a crowd of young adults, with jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops the dominant fashion, with an occasional nose-ring and tattoo. The crowd was predominantly white, with a sprinkling of Asians and blacks. Many brought cups of coffee with them; a woman who sat next to me spread cream cheese on her bagel and began to eat her breakfast.

A growing group of children sat to one side coloring on large sheets of paper, their chatter building with their numbers.

The service began with the dimming of the lights, except for a spotlight on the stage, where a young man with a guitar and a young woman with a harmonica and some percussion instruments led us in singing an upbeat version of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” with PowerPoint projection of words on the screen above the stage. David Capes had a short reading and prayer, then we continued the singing. The lights were turned up for a welcome by the pastor, Chris Seay, which was then shared by all. Then the children were dismissed.

A young woman, Tanya, was invited forward to give some announcements. Sermon was by Jack Wisdom (cop turned youth pastor turned lawyer), looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Quick transition to communion; prayer led by Chris Seay, during which he broke a large loaf of leavened whole wheat bread, followed by a responsive prayer led by David Capes. Those who would be assisting in the distribution were invited forward; they tore off a piece of bread, and dipped it into either grape juice or wine. The congregation then were invited forward, and came forward in no particular order, to take a piece of bread, and dip it in the cup of their choice, then returning to their seat. There was a quick dismissal and prayer and final song, and coffee at the back.

I was disappointed by the lack of any personal contact by anyone other than my friend, with whom I chatted afterwards.

The general atmosphere was similar to plenty of young adult programs I have done, including Cafe Catholica.

The art, music, and books in the bookstore were an eclectic mix of Catholic and Reformed classics, Neo-Orthodoxy and postmodernism, reflecting a respect for tradition but a hunger for packaging things in a new way.

But I was disappointed that no one thought to reach out to and welcome a visitor.