Posts Tagged ‘ Nondenominational ’

The Body: The Church for Anybody, Part I – Visited on 12/18

Rock Hill, SC is a rising city.  In the last ten years it has bloomed, secreting ring upon concentric ring of commercial buildings and housing developments, metastasizing into the primary city of York County.  In its fairly rural surroundings Rock Hill’s university, airport and civic buildings make it one of the leading exurbs of the great concrete beast that is Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Body lies on the periphery of this growth, at the threshold between York County’s rural highways and Rock Hill’s newfound urban sprawl.  A repurposed structure, from the outside it looks like any of the many commercial spaces that share its road, a low, brown building that could be the office of a local credit union.  No steeple announces its religious affiliation, but a painted sign by the road displays its name and goal: “The Body: The Church for Anybody.”

The Body is a contemporary, nondenominational Christian group, similar to some other congregations visited by Churchspotting: The Journey at Crowder’s Creek Middle School (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-40), The Bridge at Clover High School (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-x), or relevant Church (sic) at Oakridge Middle School (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-r).  Like those groups, The Body takes an informal approach to Christian worship.  Its music is performed on contemporary instruments by a live band.  Dress is casual and semi-casual—adherents arrive in whatever they prefer, tending towards their nicer street clothes.  The congregation of the Body is a mixed group, with many families and children, young adults, and a strong cohort of aging Baby Boomers.

The sanctuary of The Body might once have been a warren of cubicles and copy machines.  Those barriers are now removed, creating a wide open rectangular space lit by the cold glow of institutional halogen lights.  One corner holds The Body’s modest stage, the facility for the church’s in house band.  A full drum set, keyboard and stools for guitarists cluster behind a palisade of mic stands, flanked by speakers and a pair of flatscreen televisions hung from the walls.  The TVs display song lyrics and sermon-appropriate visuals to support The Body’s worship services.

The morning of the 18th was a special one at the Body.  In lieu of its normal pattern of worship, the church held its Christmas family dinner.  The sanctuary was set with dozens of tables draped in white cloth, around which the congregation sat to listen to the sermon before the community meal.  Interspersed among the full-sized tables were smaller ones for the congregation’s children, who joined the main service that morning rather than attend a smaller Children’s Church gathering.  A far corner of the sanctuary was taken up with trestles and platters, all stocked with food prepared by the congregation.

The service began with a medley of Christmas songs performed by the band.  Once they’d finished, The Body’s senior pastor took the mic.  Pastor Tim Fowler is an older man, his exact age obfuscated by a bald-shaven head.  He is a strikingly tall figure, and attended the morning’s worship in a purple monogrammed shirt with his name and The Body’s insignia stitched in yellow thread upon its breast.  He paces while speaking, treading up and down before the band’s rampart of mic stands, grinning and interspersing his sermon with jokes that draw a smattering of chuckles from the audience.  Like his dress and the layout of his church, Fowler’s delivery is both personal and informal.

The substance of Mr. Fowler’s sermon that morning was cultural critique.  He decried efforts he sees in our culture to remove the Christian elements from the holiday of Christmas.  He linked such trends, in a broader sense, to an effort in our culture to turn away from religion.  He spent a great deal of time complaining of the “negativity and the doubt and the naysayers,” whom he feels try to denigrate his beliefs.

Key to his sermon was the idea that there is precisely one way to find salvation, that being Jesus Christ.  His complaints seemed much reserved for those who resist that idea, especially those whom he believes attempt to use science to negate it.  “We’ve come to a point in history,” he said, “where not only science is trying to tell us there is no God,” but where society is attempting to take the Christ out of Christmas.

After his sermon, the band retook its position behind their mics to play while deacons passed around offering plates for that morning’s tithe.  Following the morning’s devotions, the congregation of The Body sat down to its meal of thanksgiving.

Later this week Churchspotting will sit down with Pastor Fowler to learn more about his beliefs and the history of his church.  Don’t miss Part II of “The Body: The Church for Anybody.”