A medium-sized stucco building on the main road through the suburb named White Rock. It grew incrementally over the 34 years since the church was formed. The latest addition is the multipurpose great room where church services are held each Sunday, and volleyball games each Tuesday.
As expected in a suburb of Los Alamos, a one-industry town, the congregation are intelligent, well-educated, and relatively affluent. Their mission and outreach efforts average two events per month, including sponsorship (and some participation in administration) of a school and orphanage in Mexico. An active youth program, with a dedicated youth minister, averages three events per week for high-school students.
White Rock is largely a bedroom community for employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory and their families. The church looks eastward across the town to the Rio Grande valley and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It is an environment for outdoor activities. The neighborhood tends to be younger than the nearby Los Alamos (which locals call "the Townsite"), with a range of family ages from young to retired.
The rock group Everfound: four brothers who emigrated from Russia. They were accompanied by wives (one worked the lights and sound) and an elderly male relative who did setup and equipment maintenance.
What was the name of the service?Everfound Concert: "Take This City".
How full was the building?
Three-quarters full of dancing kids, their parents, and more elderly church members. Many of the parents and elders retreated into the open-plan gathering space further away from the lights and music. Ear plugs were passed out at the door; most of the adults accepted them.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. We saw many of our church friends. The preparations began at 9.00 that morning for an opening at 6.00pm. Roughly 10 per cent of the church was on the setup or takedown, security, or lunch/dinner teams; we tried to photograph every one of them at work.
Was your pew comfortable?
We were on risers and ladders to take photos, but the crowd was all standing.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Excited. There were people in the parking lot tailgating with hot dogs and hamburgers! Some had come up from Albuquerque (100 miles); some down from Los Alamos (10 miles).
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hello, White Rock!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
What musical instruments were played?
Electronic keyboard, bass guitar, drums (and more drums!). Everything was amplified through multiple speakers, including speaker towers (roughly 4'x4'x12') at the corners of the stage.
Did anything distract you?
Inexperienced with rock concerts, we were rather overwhelmed by the the sound and lights. The concrete slab floor seemed to be vibrating with the bass and drums. We staggered back occasionally from the light show, coordinated with the music. And that was filtered through the viewfinder of our camera.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very high energy. The lead singer gestured, ran, jumped as he sang. The audience raised their hands, clapped them overhead, and occasionally jumped up and down in time to the music. The lead singer interspersed short devotional talks among the songs. They were delivered in simple and direct language, with obvious feeling. Reminiscences of their Russian grandmother and the uncle imprisoned for owning a Bible crossed the cultural chasm easily and effectively. The devotional sections focused on the feelings of frustration, loneliness, uncertainty common to youth; uncertainty and alienation common to everyone with a simple evangelical message straight out of the Billy Graham model. Then each was concluded by a description of salvation on the St Paul model followed by a song of celebration.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon, but the concert went on for one hour and forty minutes, including encores.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The high-energy celebration. It was a good imitation of the Rapture. (Will they give out ear plugs for the Rapture?)
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, we shook for a couple of hours afterward and we had a better excuse than the usual old age when we couldn't hear each other.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We took a few more pictures and talked with people as the takedown began, then folded the ladders and slipped away.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The church had lunch and dinner for the workers before the concert, but afterward the church members got to work taking down the equipment and packing it up. It only took about two hours.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – Think of it as Rapture rehearsal. A concert is more "event" than "church", but it had a real feeling of excitement, a focus on celebration, some exposition of salvation in simple and direct terms. Church should be so good.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much. It came in two parts: the concert itself and the community effort to put it on.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The light and sound.