SPRINGFIELD—What does a 70-something who grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist Church (i.e. suits/ties, ladies hats, KJV, organ!) think of the “Gathering @ the Table on C-Street,” sitting among fifty 20- to 30-somethings?
The “gathering” is the worship service of a newly planted church known as “The Table on C-Street: A Christian Conversation.” C-Street is Commercial Street on Springfield’s north side.
Different? Yes, but compared with what I read about the churches in the New Testament, it isn’t so different after all. The church meets in a place where the people are, using elements of their culture. Informal setting. Praise band. Coffee and brownies. Candles! And a message from Adam Stoddard directed toward the issues facing those who are in the congregation (excuse me, the “gathering”). New Testament churches met under trees, in borrowed buildings, homes, or anywhere that the people could come together.
What was my church doing 60 years ago? It was a neighborhood church, just a few blocks from where the “gathering” gathers. Culturally we felt at home with the music and form of worship. Clothing? That is how church people and non-church people dressed at the time. Suits and ties and ladies hats at the symphony and other gatherings, even at major league ball games!
I grew up near Commercial Street. We shopped there. During college I sold men’s shirts and ties for the Ed V. Williams clothing company just two blocks from where I sat in that unique worship service. Sixty years ago the “culture” on C-street was compatible with the way the church looked and acted. Now, the culture of C-street has changed and with it, the church has changed.
But it is not called a church. The “Gathering @ the Table on C-Street” meets in a store-front building that is otherwise unused at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. By the way, I seem to remember that the Greek word ecclesia which is often translated as church means gathering doesn’t it? The leader does not use a title like pastor, or evangelist, or missionary – just Adam.
Adam Stoddard and his family of six account for about 10 percent of the current attendees. Others include some dynamic young adults from several churches in the area. The group meets again on Tuesday evenings, often with others who were not present on Sunday, at a coffee shop on Commercial Street. At that time they discuss the topic of his message on Sunday, or anything else that happens to come up.
However, Adam was quick to say this is not his target group. His goal is to reach the loft-dwellers and business owners on Commercial Street. He says there are many ministries available to the ones he identifies as “social service” people. But no one else seems to be trying to reach the ones who are buying or renting loft apartments in these historic buildings. When he walks along Commercial Street, he stops and chats with many of these residents and business persons who call him by name.
I believe the Lord would be comfortable, is comfortable, as a part of the Gathering @ the Table on C-Street. (George Joslin is a member of First Baptist Church, Springfield.)