This morning Aaron and I wanted to try something new, like go to a mega-church. Outside our destination, a church called Exciting Idlewild, I had to ask Aaron if it was okay if I took pictures. We agreed it would be best if he and Clara at least posed in front of the university-esque church so as to appear like less conspicuous voyeurs.

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When I first drove by Exciting Idlewild months ago, I thought it was a new college campus with its various wings and pillars and recreation fields. They have an extended golf cart trolley that roams the parking lot to pick up the distantly parked. We sat in Terrace GG-HH, Rows 5 and 6. I’ve had better seats at most of the concerts and baseball games I’ve been to. But there was something exciting about it. The air conditioner smelled great. The woman at the welcome center walked us over to the children’s ministry where Clara would be read to and decorated in Jesus stickers in room A131, one of the three or four rooms they had just for two-year-olds.  They have a system that involves barcodes and four-digit numbers to make sure the right child is matched with the right parent during the mad ten minutes after the first service ends and the second one begins.

Like a few other churches I’ve seen, they have a coffee shop, which looked wonderful though not as cleverly named as “Hebrews,” the coffee shop in a sizable—though far from mega—church in Tallahassee we visited once.

I was prepared for four passes of the offering plate, or like the church in Tallahassee, being asked to just wave my bills and check in the air for the ushers to swipe.  There were plenty of people standing somewhat solemnly during the praise part of the service and lots of moving anecdotes in the sermon. There was a very nice duet that involved a classical guitar. The sermon was clear, convicting, and easy to listen to. Clara was “excellent” in the nursery even though I’m sure she used her favorite words “no” and “mine” at least once. They have a ton of programs and opportunities for families. You can be as involved or as invisible as you want. I can see why people call this church their home.

For now, however, I still prefer seeing the same people every week and the pastor up close rather than on the telecaster. I like the feel of a hymnal rather than digitally-produced lyrics. A huge choir and orchestra are nice but nothing beats hearing your friend’s beautiful soprano or the off-key baritone from the jolly man in the back row who lets Clara tug his beard. If the mega-church had just one imperfection it was that it didn’t have any imperfections, right down to its insistence that we are not called to be perfect. There’s something endearing about a church in need of roof repair or a nursery stocked only with Golden Books.

It was a very enjoyable morning though and the long walk to the car fit in nicely to my labor induction plan that also involves lots of hot sauce on my morning cheese grits and other unmentionables.  Come on, baby, I’m ready to hold you!

Here’s what should be a final family-of-three shot and if it looks like I was crying, it’s because the dang mega-pastor told a couple super-touching stories about an old woman and a piano and a lung transfusion.

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For fun, here’s a couple of Clara being a little daddy’s girl and Aaron being an awfully proud little girl’s daddy.

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