Church of Christ, Valley Congregation, Glendale, Arizona, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Church of Christ, Valley Congregation
Location: Glendale, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 30 June 2024, 9:00am

The building

A large, low, flat structure. Inside, one passes through a spacious lobby to enter a plain but bright room, triangular shaped, with cushioned wooden pews angled in toward a center podium. A video monitor mounted on the ceiling was positioned to face the podium. Projection screens were mounted on the wall behind the podium.

The church

Churches of Christ is not a denomination, but rather a loose association of like-minded autonomous congregations who believe the New Testament to be their sole rule of doctrine, faith and practice – not the councils, not the creeds, not tradition, not the Old Testament (although they do consider it to be divinely inspired). I didn’t see any mention of ministries or outreaches of the Valley Congregation on their website, although a newcomer brochure that was handed to me mentioned fellowship opportunities, work groups and youth gatherings that were not elaborated upon. In addition to the Sunday service, there is Bible study on Wednesdays for all and women’s Bible study on Saturdays.

The neighborhood

They are located in a rather barren part of Glendale, a northwestern suburb of Phoenix, on Northern Avenue at 83rd Avenue. Directly across the street is Harvest Church, an evangelical megachurch. A riding stable, a construction vehicle storage area, and an electrical generating station are their other neighbors.

The cast

There was no indication of who was who, nor are any staff listed on their website. The service was opened by a young gentleman who appeared dapper in blue jacket, tieless white shirt, brown slacks and brown shoes. The closing prayer was led by a somewhat older gentleman in a yellow shirt and brown slacks and sporting a long blonde beard.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Worship. The service was actually divided into three parts: short devotional, Bible class, and worship service. I stayed only for the short devotional.

How full was the building?

I counted room for about 500 and it was pretty much full. A predominantly young to middle aged crowd, some older folks. Lots of older teenagers, a lesser number of younger children. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Did they ever! As I was snapping photos outside, a gentleman came out and said, ‘Hello. What are you up to today?’ I think I satisfied him with my answer. Inside, two gentlemen in the lobby shook my hand, introduced themselves, welcomed me, and explained briefly what the order of service would be. Once I was seated, a large number of people shook my hand, introduced themselves, asked where I was from, and said they were glad I had come. Some inquired about my taking photos – I told them I like to keep a scrapbook of churches I have visited. It was a very warm welcome indeed – heartfelt but not pushy.

Was your pew comfortable?

There was a row of chairs set up behind the last row of pews. I sat in one of those, and it was quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Lots of visiting among people as they came in. Promptly at 9:00, the lights were flashed on and off like they do in a concert hall at the end of intermission – whereupon everyone immediately became silent and took their seats. I had to marvel at that.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good morning, everyone.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Holy Bible, New King James Version, the hardbound Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, and the softbound Songs of Praise and Worship were in the pews, but the one hymn we sung was projected, as were sermon notes.

What musical instruments were played?

None. Churches of Christ believe that there is no justification in the New Testament for the use of musical instruments in worship. (Psalm 150 is Old Testament, remember.) The singing was a cappella and in four part harmony.

Did anything distract you?

I busied myself studying the makeup of the congregation, and noticed that I was the only one there wearing shorts. Mind you, I was wearing what I considered to be my Sunday best given the torrid summer Phoenix climate, but I felt decidedly underdressed.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It opened with a hymn that I didn’t recognize but was traditional sounding. This was followed by a reading from scripture – Jeremiah 13:1-11, which the young gentleman entitled, ‘the story of God’s spoiled underwear – a sermon, and a closing prayer. I was a little surprised that the reading was Old Testament, but they do consider it divinely inspired after all.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 — I’m flipping all the cards – and extra credit for anyone who knows the origin of that expression. The young gentleman spoke clearly and conversationally without referring to notes, although I suspect that the video monitor facing the podium was being put to use. I have to say it was one of the most powerful and most inspirational sermons I have ever heard.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Verse 10 of the reading sums up the meaning succinctly: People who ignore God’s word are as useless as rotten underwear! They put their pride before God’s love. It’s time to wake up, people! We don’t just ‘put on the Lord’ at Sunday service like a pair of underwear, and then take him off again for the rest of the week. We must nourish our relationship with God – if we don’t, it will spoil and we will be good for nothing! God didn’t create trash – he created us in his image and for his glory. It is we who make ourselves like trash. Jesus, of course, was not trash. For our sake he took upon himself what we deserve. The Gospel tells us how to become beautiful to God. We are given a second chance – not only a second chance, but a two hundred twentieth chance, a five thousand six hundredth chance, etc.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

As regular readers of this feature know, I am one who appreciates ceremony, liturgy, church well done. But this simple, straightforward, down-to-earth service really moved me – as did the sincere friendliness of the people. It was heavenly to see so many young people at a service of this sort.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Just that I was the only one wearing shorts!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

After the concluding prayer, a sort of intermission occurred before the Bible class began. People got up and wandered around, some to the restrooms, some to seek out friends for more visiting. I decided not to stay for the Bible class and main service. As I was leaving, I noticed a box marked ‘Offerings’ and deposited my Mystery Worship card there. I told the two gentlemen in the lobby who had greeted me earlier that I thought the sermon was one of the most powerful and most moving that I had ever heard, but that I would like to experience the service in dribs and drabs – that I would stay longer next time. They thanked me for coming and told me that I would be most welcome to come back.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I didn’t stay for that, if there was any.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 — Despite the complete lack of ritual and liturgy that I thrive on, I found this morning’s experience very satisfying, and I will strongly consider making a return visit.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Most definitely yes!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

People who ignore God are as useless as rotten underwear!

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools