Champaign, Illinois, On Sunday morning in Savoy, little advertisements are posted along Route 45, just south of neighboring Champaign. Cool music, one says. Interesting message, great coffee, and atmosphere that is casual, follow in the sequence of signs. They lead into the nondenominational Grace Community Church, in which a bigger sign welcomes visitors into Sunday Morning Grace. At the website, there is a church nowhere available. There’s no steeple, there are no tainted glass windows or crosses. Instead, Grace, a little, 3 year-old start-up church, meets from the Regent Ballroom, a corporate convention centre behind the Savoy 16 film theatre.
At 10: 30, the lights dim within the main room. Rows of chairs face a stage. A worship band plays a slow rock instrumental. Sunday’s service has begun. Following the song, Pastor Dave Hensleigh reveals a video clip on a big display over the stage of the late soccer enthusiast Walter Payton scoring a touchdown. He relates the clip to the message of today: the bases of living a Christian life. Just like Payton charging toward the end zone, Christians should strive toward the end goal, spending eternity with Jesus in paradise. On stage, the band plays modern songs as the overhead screen shows texts on a background image of the Milky Way galaxy.
A middle aged man in a sport jacket, jeans and cowboy boots lifts his right arm through a single song, passionately reaching out as if into capture a few character of spirit emitted from the music. Others in the largely white, mostly baby. Audience rock back and forth into the beat, sing and clapping. Following a brief Christian drama Enacted by a younger church member, Pastor Hensleigh starts his sermon. Casually dressed guests sip java and jot down an occasional notice as they settle-back in their chairs. Following the sermon, Hensleigh’s wife thanks the congregation for coming. The audience erupts in applause.
Church is over. The 80 in individuals in attendance mingle in the aisles. Some miles north in Champaign, incense wafts throughout the air of Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church as parishioners from their Sunday best chant hymns a cappella. The largely Greek American congregation repeats prayers in accordance with the Sunday liturgy in their routinely mystic worship, deeply connected to nearly 2, 000 years of dogma and doctrine. During worship, the priest, Father George Pyle, stands supporting icon painted panels separating the altar in the congregation, cautiously preparing for the week’s Eucharist celebration. In nearby Urbana, onto the campus of the University of Illinois, the Wesley United Methodist Church’s second service starts. The week’s special service, featuring a distinctive Musical choice, starts with a trumpet duet into a classical piece written by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. The audio centered service, held from Wesley’s lofty cathedral onto Green Street, is led by 3 pastors, dressed from priestly robes: Senior Co Pastors Tom and Sharon Neufer Emswiler, and Associate Pastor Annalise Fonza.