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Sunday Morning at Christ the King, Dorchester

Uphams News Blog

Sun, Mar 10, 2013

Following through on my Promise


Christ the King DorchesterOn my day off, I decided to visit Christ the King Dorchester (CTK) which worships at 50 Stoughton Street.  On Saturday mornings, the large white clapboard church is home to an Hispanic Seventh-day Adventist church and on Sunday mornings, Christ the King. They've been using that facility for the last several years.

I've wanted to visit the church for a long time. Sunday mornings, walking my dog Sarah, I often hear them practicing. I met Dan Rogers, the senior pastor, at a community meeting several months back and in December, I met several CTK members at an evening Advent series at Bob Haas' house. 

I arrived just past the start time of 10am and was surprised (pleased) to see a program of traditional liturgy.  They are Presbyterian and the service includes Bible readings, a sermon, confession and communion yet has a modern feel to it. 

For me, one measure of "church comfort" was indelibly stamped on my memory and in my heart by Fr. Ed Waldron at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, also in Uphams Corner.  At many churches, "The Peace" is a brief moment to stop staring ahead and to reach out your hand to greet the neighbor on either side of you. 

At St. Mary's, The Peace lasted minute after luscious minute as we all left our seats and hugged everyone we could get our arms around.  To the chagrin of many visitors, our joy was obvious and the socializing in the middle of church annoying.  Well, glad to say that Christ the King rates high on my Peace Scale.  "Peace of the Lord."


Praise Team Leadership

Christ the King WorshipI've spent most of my church-going life in traditional churches with hymnals full of the old standards of predictably structured music - easy to learn and follow. Not so (I find) for praise songs with melodies that wander and a worship leader led sequence of singing that picks through the songs' content in somewhat arbitrary ways.

Led by Moses Parker, music director, the 3-member Praise Team uses a "paperless" hymnal with words projected on a screen high in the chancel.

Moses is a terrific singer, guitar player and worship leader. You can tell he is a deeply committed Christian especially by how he manages the emotional and spiritual flow of the singing.  As "foreign" as the music felt to me, he effectively drew me in and, I'm sure, the rest of the congregation as well.


Mix of People in the Congregation

In Uphams Corner, with its almost 90% people of color population, I am always interested in community that forms here for whatever reason. Christ the King is an imported community group from who knows where, certainly not drawn significantly from Uphams Corner. 

I noticed that the congregation (at least 100) was mostly a young mixture of Asian and white Americans with a very few African-Americans, though by the number of young children seated on the stairs just outside the snack table, the population demographics of the church is/will be changing.

Paulette, who is in the choir and organizing the women's retreat at the beginning of April, has been at Christ the King for the last four years. "I came here from Jubilee in Mattapan. I felt the Lord calling me."

Seeing the number of youth from infants to grade school all the way through high school was exciting. That's a sign of a healthy church, one that is likely to continue for at least another generation.


The Liturgy and the Message

Rev. Dan Rogers gave the sermon which, more than anything else was a Bible study covering Matthew 14:1-4 with a reference back to the Old Testament reading of Isaiah 40:1-5. Rev. Dan's style is informative, personal, lots of storytelling, yet grounded in the Bible; a book this church believes is the Word of God.  The head of John the Baptist, delivered on a platter, was the focus and it gave him a chance to talk about our real motives, the kingdom of God here on earth, a kingdom that includes suffering but from which is born new life, and one other topic.

As many years as I have attended church, I have somehow missed ever hearing about the primary emphasis of Rev. Dan's sermon:  "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit," at least under that title.

"It is easy," he said, "to imagine that King Herod is the 'bad guy' and John the Baptist, the 'good guy.'"  But not so fast. "In his final days, John the Baptist committed the sin of blasphemy by questioning if Jesus (his cousin) was who he said he was.  King Herod committed the sin of murder.  Both men were sinful. Both men needed Jesus."

This was great food for my thoughts as I (we) get lured into seeing life as a dichotomy of right and wrong, of black of white, of who's in and who's out.  We think we "know" and we think we are in charge.  Rev. Dan's words again reminded me of what it is easy to forget - my fallibility in the world.

Standing to sing, standing long periods during the Songs of Praise was wonderful.  So, seated in the first row, I immediately stood for the Confession of Sin only to find Moses Park coming down to me.  "We don't stand," he said quietly.  "If you can, we ask you to kneel on the floor."  Turning around, I discovered that most of the congregation had "disappeared."  They not only kneel on the floor, they turn around to kneel towards the back of the church so that they can bow their heads low and rest them on the seats, or the ground?  I don't know.  They were just missing, en masse.

By the time I managed to locate my knees comfortably on the floor to begin to ponder my sins and the need for forgiveness, everyone else was getting up.


Christ the King Mission


Communion


Communion was interesting. While many traditional churches, for example, the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches, precede the passing of bread and wine with a long prescribed text, Rev. Logan Keck led an informal period of invitation. Just who are you in your unfolding relationship with Jesus?  Come forward to be blessed. Come forward to partake in the sacraments.

In their presentation of communion, this church has reversed the standard gestures in which clergy or communion assistants deliver the sacraments to the tongue, the cupped hand or the outstretched fingers.

At Christ the King, the congregation is responsible for their own gestures.  One by one, each person reaches forward, touches the loaf of freshly baked and yeasted bread and tears off a piece, then selects either the purple wine or the white grape juice to wash it all down.  I was surprised at how soft the bread felt and how delicious it tasted (compared to the hard, round communion wafers).  (I went back for a second piece). And, yes, it is possible that we all exchanged the invisible germs that members of a single body share as our commitment to our faith superseded technical caution. 


Choir Practice

My other reason for visiting Christ the King is that I heard that an Easter choir was forming and would be practicing immediately after church. So church ended at 11:35 and choir practice was scheduled to start ten minutes later but very few people left the sanctuary.  It seems to offer a comfortable place for social exchange and people seem to share important relationships.  Talk, talk, talk, until finally, the "fog horn" drew their attention. 

Brother Jonathan, a professional musician, with a wonderful voice, leads the choir of at least twenty people, categorized as soprano, alto and tenor.  There is no music, only song sheets and learning is "by rote," as another musician who had just joined the choir, commented after rehearsal.  "My wife and I are used to reading the music," he said. (Ditto) 

To be accompanied by full praise instrumentation including guitar, drums and keyboard, the Easter choir will be singing four gospel songs and one praise song on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013.

Christ the King is a dynamic and growing spiritual community here in Dorchester, in Uphams Corner.  As Rev. Dan said:  "We come here as church and we leave here as church as well."


Pastor Dan Talks about Christ the King

Christ the King's current location was selected because of "who we are as a church and the mission that God has given us as a church."  It was because of the people and families living in the neighborhood "who loved their neighborhood, and who really loved their neighbors."

Starting a church "for their neighbors, a church that would be a church for Dorchester, a church that would look like Dorchester, and a church that would care about the issues that residents of Dorchester care about," such was the motivating energy behind the newly forming church.  "We really do see it as a privilege to live and minister in Dorchester.  It is a wonderful neighborhood with precious people."

Rev. Dan recalls a day when the church, as an institution, was considered an integral part of the community and an important part of the solution to community issues but not so much today. 
 
 "Our desire is to change this perception through loving and serving our neighbors."  They are keenly aware of neighborhood conditions - "often beat up and battered from the reality of tremendous societal brokenness.  We recognize that many of the issues facing our community, such as broken marriages and families, domestic and youth violence, poverty, inequitable educational opportunities for our children, just to name a few, are holistic community problems that demand a holistic community solution."

While only five years young, Christ the King has instituted several programs serving the community:
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes
  • GED program
  • Children's ministry called King's Kids
  • CTK Resource Center (located at 1370 Dorchester Ave)
Rev. Dan is grateful to the "many Christians, pastors, and churches that have loved and labored in the neighborhood for many years.  Any fruit we see from our love and labor is a direct result of their hard work and faithful prayers.  We stand on the shoulders of giants, heroes and heroines!"


http://www.ctkdorchester.org


Posted: March 10, 2013     Nancy J Conrad


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