Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ingomar United Methodist Church

Today we worshiped at Ingomar United Methodist Church, 1501 West Ingomar Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237, 412.364.3613,, E. David Streets and Tracy June Cox, Pastors.

Bob’s thoughts:

It is always interesting to visit a church that has multiple worship services. It is hard to guess if the people you see are visitors or long-time members who are attending a different service. We were greeted and welcomed by a number of people and invited to partake of refreshments.

There was good signage but it might help to project signage at the restrooms so they could be identified from down the hall.

When we sat down there were only a few people seated, but by the time the service was starting they were setting up extra rows of seats to accommodate the crowd.

The back wall of the stage is covered with floor-to-ceiling tinsel, a great effect with the colored lights.

I forgot my earplugs so I was not prepared for the volume, but after the first few songs it returned to a more bearable level.

The praise leader seemed like a cheerleader trying to get more out of the worshipers but I thought the congregation showed a lot of passion in worship.

My hip gave out before the prayers and I had to sit, so I am not sure if it was the praise team leader who spoke, but the prayer was well spoken.

Thought the song “Waiting Here for You” was done well, and I liked the individually spaced Advent candles.

The sermon was part of a series on the “Advent Conspiracy.” I liked that four points were presented early and the message developed nicely.

I really enjoyed the final solo, “Emmanuel.” We realized on the way out going past the beautiful Sanctuary that the soloists covered the other services as well.

I knew of some of the local mission efforts of this church, but was impressed with their more global efforts. I plan to contribute to the clean water programs.

My only disappointment was that there were a number of pretty Christmas trees on the Chancel but I couldn’t find a cross.

Jan’s thoughts:

It’s a good thing Bob was driving: being directionally challenged, I would have gotten lost in the parking lot. Parking was plentiful, including spaces marked for first-time visitors, but I would have appreciated some outdoor directional signage in order to be sure I was headed in the right direction on this cold morning.

The building is very large, and we were early enough to take a self-guided tour. We couldn’t help but notice all those thoughtful touches that make such a difference. It is clean and uncluttered with superb signage throughout.

We attended the contemporary service held in Fellowship Hall where chairs were arranged facing the stage area and sparkling with trees, lights, and lots of tinsel.

We’ve spoken in the past about how easy it is to get lost when a church has two services. This one has three, so I was surprised at the number of people who greeted us as visitors. This is an inviting, friendly church.

There was no question when worship would begin, as the music jumped by a number of decibels. Surprisingly, I was unfamiliar with every piece of music at this service, including both of the impressive solos.

There was no children’s message, but as the children were led from the worship area (presumably to children’s church), the congregation was asked to extend their hands over the children as the worship leader prayed for them.

There appears to be lots of local, national, and international mission activity at this church. During the service a video was shown for Hair Peace Charities, a local organization that provides wigs for women who have lost their hair during breast cancer chemotherapy. Check out their website at for everything they do.

I found the Advent candle lighting to be interesting as the candles seemed to be spread across the stage.

The Message was based on Matthew 25:31-40 and entitled “Advent Conspiracy IV: Saying and Doing.” It stressed the importance of Christians’ actions matching their words.

The Advent series springs from the assertion that $20 billion would solve the clean water problems around the world, and that each year Americans spend $450 billion on gifts. If we each gave one less gift and donated that money instead to organizations that work to provide clean water in other countries, wouldn’t that be a worshipful way of doing Christmas?

Having participated in three mission journeys to countries where clean water was an issue, I’m inclined to say yes. If you are too, check out the website at

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mosaic Community Church

Today we worshiped at Mosiac Community Church, 2801 North Charles Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15214, 412.321.3911, , Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were blessed to worship at Mosaic: a dear friend was delivering the message today. We were able to catch up a bit before the service and enjoy worship in a truly mosaic church.

The message centered on the Christmas passages and the reason Christ came.

Another blessing today was to be able to hold one of my grandchildren and enjoy all the little ones of the congregation.

Jan’s thoughts:

It’s always an encouragement to worship at Mosaic, and it has been more than two years since our last visit here. The people keep it real and are not afraid to admit they are struggling, so their prayers are genuine and honest. We are always greeted warmly, and truly enjoy the uplifting and contagious enthusiasm. Also, it’s a real joy to see so many little ones.

We were sorry to miss our friend Saleem, but it was great to see another friend, Pete, who preached today.

The inspirational music was led by two ladies, one of whom played the keyboard. We sang some surprisingly traditional songs for such a contemporary service, but it was superb.

The untitled message was wound around reminders of the true meaning of Christmas and included three specific aspects: God loves us; through Christ’s sacrifice we can be reconciled to God; and no suffering is permanent. I relished the reference to “God’s reckless love” for each of us, and especially appreciated the reminder quoted from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” – one of my favorite devotionals – that Jesus did not come from this world, but came into this world from outside, and the same is true of  His coming into our hearts…He must come into them from outside.

For everyone I know, I pray for a personal experience of God’s reckless love this season.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Orchard Hill Church

Today we worshiped at Orchard Hill Church, 2551 Brandt School Road, Wexford, PA 15090, 724.935.5555,, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund. Senior Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

I can tell a church with a good business manager because there is an attention to details that most people never consider.

The signage is very good and the spacious layout with lots of seating makes for a welcoming presence. I was impressed that we were recognized and welcomed as visitors, and I was thanked for my service.

There were 26 children to be baptized or dedicated today during the two services, and the handout included a card bearing a color photo of each child.

A member, Pete, gave his personal testimony of his walk: what a great way to encourage members in their faith.

For me the music was a little too loud (I remembered my earplugs), but the congregation was energized.

The message, “Not Crazy: To Live in Spiritual Community,” the last in a series on Biblical community. I felt Christ used the minister to deliver a message relevant to a discussion on the way to church, and we were given some thoughts to ponder and pray over.

I was disappointed not to find a cross in the sanctuary.

Jan’s thoughts:

I’m only guessing, but this is likely one of the largest interdenominational churches in this area. The campus is huge, and it was easy to get lost in the crowd. We were welcomed by several people but only one stopped to speak with us. This is typical at a church with a minimum of three services per week.

I suppose they had a very good idea how many people to expect, as the rear half of the auditorium seating was not available. The seats are very comfortable and even have built-in cup holders.

The music, the lights, the cameras, everything looked and sounded absolutely professional. Color was used to great effect.

We had the pleasure of witnessing approximately 14 baptisms and one dedication.

One member gave his personal story, telling how he came to Orchard Hill, and there are many others on the website that make for some heart wrenching reading.

The current series of messages is called “Not Crazy” and today’s message was “Not Crazy: To Live in Spiritual Community.” The point was, “the beauty of community: brings support…without it we are isolated (1 Corinthians 12:21,26); brings shared mission…without it we are limited (1 Corinthians 12:7); brings perspective…without it we are shallow (1 Corinthians 12:17); brings accountability…without it we are dangerous (1 Corinthians 12:14-15).” He then spoke of the layers of community, from All People of Faith, to the Worshiping Community, to the Mid-sized Community, to the Small Group, to Spiritual Friends.

He made excellent points, but the one thing he said that will stick with me was that “vulnerability invites community.” These three words affected me deeply.