Last Sunday, my family and I went to the 11:00 service, or “celebration,” at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. Glide has been an institution in San Francisco since 1931. It prides itself on being a church without walls, and it’s a fitting description. It’s extremely open and diverse, and does tremendous work in and for the community around it. Don’t be fooled, though, it’s a Methodist church in name only. The details of worship and the bible are largely downplayed in favor of heartwarming stories of people overcoming struggle, banners with slogans like “Everyone is welcome, everyone is Glide”…and the music.
Ah, the music. It’s the main event at Glide, easily as important as the sermon, and the choir rocked. Surprisingly, for a gospel choir, it was very ethnically diverse. The majority of the singers were white, as were two of the soloists, but they all brought the house down. People sang and shouted and clapped, waved their hands in rapture, and used up boxes and boxes of tissue.
Reverend Douglass Fitch delivered the sermon. His “forgiveness is divine” message was straightforward and simple. Even the few unforgiving potshots at Bush and Pat Robertson were standard, and you could tell his heart wasn’t in it. We were there for the delivery, though, not the message, and Fitch delivered in fine gospel style. Amen! Preach on, brother!
The tourists and sightseers far outnumbered the regulars in the congregation, which reminded me of Palo Alto’s recent anarchist marches. The ushers deftly and cheerfully handled newcomers, language barriers, and breaches of what little etiquette was followed.
Surprisingly, the church’s architecture itself was underwhelming. The experience felt much more hippie than gospel, which was a surprise too. I expected pinstripe suits on the men and fancy hats on the ladies, and there were some, but they were far outnumbered by beards, birkenstocks, and generally bohemian attire. Even so, the trip was well worth it.
Next stop, Grace Cathedral!