We needed a church. So we decided to try Idlewild Baptist at the recommendation of one of Andrew's family friends.
When we walk in, the sanctuary is the size of a collegiate basketball stadium. There are no stained-glass windows or hymnals; in their place are two gigantic megascreens, a 75-person orchestra, and a balcony that must hold at least 300 people in a choir. The megascreens make me have palpitations, but I breathe, and tell myself to give it a good college try. They advertise a Starbucks coffee shop just outside of the sanctuary. I choke down a scream.
The deacons come forward, streaming down 6 church aisles all in nearly-matching suits. They are all men. This makes me wonder. I take a good look at the four-person ministerial team. All men as well. Strike one.
The preacher steps up to the pulpit. He is a visiting speaker and the president (or maybe former president) of the Southern Baptist Convention. No. Please no. He begins with an anecdote, and I think, at least it isn't a joke and he doesn't mention football. I try to stay open-minded. He makes a crack about women and cooking. I restrain from volleying one of those stubby pencils toward the megastage. His sermon goes something like this: Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Buzz words synonymous with salvation, damnation, Hell, and Born Again. A smatter of guilt. A pinch more of guilt. And it concludes with "Turn to your neighbor and tell him or her that you know you're saved by Jesus." Strike two.
I peel myself from my seat, where I've tried to remain as low and still as possible to remain unnoticed. My tactic has not worked. Crazy McCrazy, apparently a regular congregant, sidles up to us with an envelope in his hand. He says, "I've had my eye on you since I walked in. This is for you." We wait to open the note until we're in the car. Apparently McCrazy has channeled Jesus, as his scrawled note is signed by none other than Christ himself, and in it he insists that Andrew is David (a philandering man-whore?) and I am Esther. Strike three.
Next week: the Universalist Church of Tampa. Updates to follow.