It was not easy to find out much information about the church building, but it is apparently about 60 years old and was added to at least five times during its history. The local firm of Forté Architecture & Planning Inc. was retained to unite the various additions under one cohesive design. The result, judging from photos, is rather striking in a surrealistic sort of way. I could not find a good photo of the inside of the church, but the service was held in front of a small wooden altar behind which was knotty-pine paneling. Two candles burned on the altar, and the Paschal candle and some baskets of Easter lilies stood nearby.
They have all the usual ministries, all well documented on their website. In normal times they have one traditional service on Saturday evening and another on Sunday morning, and a contemporary service on Sunday morning as well. Today’s service was pre-recorded and posted on their website.
Although it is located in the Idaho panhandle, Coeur d’Alene considers itself a suburb of Spokane, Washington, which lies about 30 miles to the west. Eighteenth century French-Canadian fur traders called the native peoples Coeur d’alene (heart of an awl), as they struck a hard bargain when it came to fur trading, although in their own language the natives called themselves simply ‘the people who live here.’ Throughout the 19th century the area was known for its rich silver mines. Today one major mining firm still has its headquarters in Coeur d’Alene, and healthcare, education, media, retail and recreation also are among the city’s economic mainstays. It’s a pleasant city and a popular recreation spot all seasons of the year.
The deacon. He did not identify himself as such, but his name was helpfully displayed on-screen and I was able to look him up. He looked quite dapper in a brownish-grey suit and yellow tie. Another gentleman, wearing a black-and-white patterned untucked sports shirt, gave the children’s message. The senior pastor, dressed in a charcoal suit, pale yellow shirt and dark red tie with yellow designs, preached.
What was the name of the service?Pentecost Sunday Service.
How full was the building?
Impossible to say, as there was no on-line counter.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
My desk chair was just fine.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Idaho is the only state in the United States where the north lies in a different time zone from the south. After assuring myself that I was in the right time zone, I accessed their website and clicked on the link for the on-line service. But I needn’t have bothered with time zones, as I found the Pentecost Sunday service pre-recorded and ready to play – although there was a separate link for livestream worship also.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
‘Good morning, Christ the King, and thanks for joining us.’
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Words appeared on screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ for the opening and closing hymns; acoustic guitar for the modern tune.
Did anything distract you?
At times, various still photos were spliced into the camera feed; this was distracting. Also, at one point the camera panned backwards, revealing spotlights and cables on either side of the altar – but it quickly recovered.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Straightforward and sober: opening hymn; confession and absolution; children’s message (aimed, I’m afraid, at rather literate children); readings from scripture; a modern tune; sermon; creed (we believe in the holy Christian church); offering (ways to give were displayed on screen); intercessions; Lord’s Prayer; benediction; concluding hymn.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 — The senior pastor spoke clearly and did not have notes in front of him – but I would imagine that there was a teleprompter off-screen. Although his sermon was not overly long by any means, I thought it did illustrate the old maxim that every good sermon has three exit routes – if only the preacher would take the first of them!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There are many things we do repeatedly, that we look forward to. In ancient times (as today), Jews looked forward to the feast of Shavuot. Shavuot is ‘the other end’ of Passover – the moment when God made his covenant with Israel. We know Shavuot as Pentecost, which is a major feast for Christians. Pentecost is one of those moments when God did something drastically different: the sending down of tongues of fire, the infusion of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the ability to speak in many languages (he studiously avoided saying ‘tongues’). Today, in these moments of uncertainty, there is a great recalibration of our values taking place. God is calling us through the eyes of faith to look at what he is doing in the world. God is always in control – nothing is outside of his power. Nobody wants this pandemic – but God is shifting us to a permanent change. Now, as at the first Pentecost, God is moving his people to a new reality, expanding their vision, giving them a glimpse into his heart – which is all about his love of his people. Pentecost shows us the great length that God is willing to go to for us. Perhaps we should think about how far we are going. What does it look like to care for and love the people around us? How do we reflect God’s heart? We pray that God may use us as his instruments to reach the world.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The service was well organized and professionally recorded, and went smoothly from start to finish.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
But it was a recording; no congregation was present, not even other voices to give the responses. It was not live. And the pre-recorded vocal tracks, both for the hymns and modern tune, were weak, anemic and artless. I don’t think there’s any other way of saying it.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 — Coeur d’Alene appears to be a pleasant place to spend a get-away weekend, once it is possible to do so once again. I will keep it on my list. And I would be tempted to stop in and experience their worship in person. This morning, I could have waited another hour or so to click on the livestream service, but I had already done my duty for the Ship of Fools and, I daresay, for God.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Sorry to say it – the anemic singing.