All Is Forgiven: The Secular Message in American Protestantism

By Marsha G. Witten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Protestant Preaching
in Contemporary American Culture

ON THE AFTERNOON of Good Friday, 1990, I sat in my living room listening to a broadcast of J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion performed by the Consort of Early Instruments. The stark sonorities of the original instruments used in the performance, and the weak, still unfulfilled sunshine of eastern Pennsylvania's early spring, seemed to heighten the pathos of the events portrayed in Bach's setting of the gospel text: an account, plain and unelaborated, and unaccompanied by elements of hope or joy, of the sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus. Just as the sublime final chorale began, with antiphonal choirs calling out sorrowfully to Jesus in his grave, I heard the familiar thump outside the door that signaled the arrival of the day's mail. As the performance ended, I went to the mailbox and opened the thickest envelope in it. The letter it contained was from a local Baptist church in the process of formation. This is the message that greeted me from that church on that Good Friday:

Hi Neighbor!At last! A new church for those who have given up on church services! Let's face it. Many people aren't active in church these days.WHY?Too often
the sermons are boring and don't relate to daily living
many churches seem more interested in your wallet than in you
members are unfriendly to visitors
you wonder about the quality of the nursery care for your little ones Do you think attending church should be enjoyable?
WELL, WE'VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!Valley Church is a new church designed to meet your needs in the 1990's. At Valley Church you
meet new friends and get to know your neighbors

-3-

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