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Calvary Santa Fe

It’s always a perilous thing to visit someone else’s church: you run the risk of turning an anecdote into a diagnosis, or mistaking a particular sermon (or worse, an offhand comment or story told from the pulpit) as indicative of something deep and meaningful about the church, or whatever. So it is with some trepidation that I wade into the following story.

I visit Calvary Santa Fe a couple of times a year, typically during the part of the year that my home church has its service at 10:30AM. I sometimes catch the 9AM service at Calvary and get on with whatever I have to do. I’m also curious to see who is still around from the church I left six or so years ago. Also, I hear from time to time that the pastor, Paul Scozzafava, will be stepping down due to a chronic and disabling illness, leaving the pulpit to a handpicked successor, Ryan Ellsworth, but that never seems to happen.

Anyway, Calvary has a recently remodeled sanctuary, a place that looks like a warehouse from the outside but a miniature megachurch inside, complete with large video screens, new carpet, well-thought-out lighting, cry room, etc. and as a result has signs on the sanctuary doors asking people not to take the food and coffee they purchase in the lobby into the sanctuary. They also have prominent signs indicating that nobody will be admitted or readmitted into the sanctuary once the teaching has begun. They have a glass-fronted “court of the Gentiles” behind the sanctuary proper for people who arrive late or step out during the service. In my limited experience these last two are kind of unusual.

Please Flush

Please Flush

There are a surprising number of signs directing, forbidding, etc. various things inside the church: the men’s room toilet stalls had Please Flush signs (but not the urinal; I didn’t check the ladies’ room, so maybe this was a men-only admonition); the side door had a sign indicating that it would be locked after a certain time “for the safety of our children.” One of the hallways had a temporary sign saying nobody but conference staff and speakers were allowed past a certain point. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but I thought it gave the impression that they were expecting no adults to be in attendance, or if someone in authority really thought people attending the church needed to be reminded that the outside world is dangerous, conference speakers need privacy and preparation time, and toilets need to be flushed.

For the safety of our children

The night of the debates I arrived by bike and needed to change out of my bike shorts etc. and into clothes appropriate for listening to a debate, so I had all my junk in a backpack. After I’d ducked into the restroom and changed I was on my way to the sanctuary when I was stopped by someone wearing a conference badge who told me I couldn’t take my backpack into the sanctuary. He said I’d either need to have it searched, or something; I immediately started opening my bag and directing him through its contents: laptop, bike shoes, sweaty clothes, and not much else. He explained that because they were having a debate they were being extra-careful about who and what got into the sanctuary. Perhaps they were on alert for militant Marianists, and I fit the profile.

Sure enough the next day there were no debates, and therefore no outsiders, and I brought the same bag with me and wasn’t subjected to a search or even a pat-down. I even took a Camel-Bak flip-top water bottle with me into the sanctuary.

  1. Joe B
    September 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Let me be the first to overreact: The pursuit of excellence is a scourge. And it is also kinda ridiculous. Your story reminds me of the time our wanna-be megachurch perimeter was “infiltrated” but a 5th grade girl who wanted a drink of water on a hot afternoon.

  1. September 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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