The first service at the Crystal Cathedral without a Schuller at the pulpit was reminiscent of a reunion.I wish them success. Given the lack of traditional services in most Orange County churches they just might hit the market niche a lot of people have been looking for and the church could thrive once again.
Long embraces. Big smiles. Brief, happy exchanges.
"Look who's here!" Sue Neuen said to her husband, Don, as he turned to hug yet another old friend.
"This is the most wonderful experience you can have in church life – to see the crowd and the enthusiasm. I've had tears in my eyes for the last half-hour," said Don Neuen, the cathedral's former minister of music.
New Schuller era begins, in a movie theater
Long-time members said they were returning to the church following last week's surprise announcement by Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman that she would preach elsewhere.
Some long-time congregants had complained about Schuller Coleman's sermons and choice of contemporary music.
"We just went to another church two weeks ago, because we didn't think we could stand it anymore," said Ann Parker, of Chino Hills. "A rock 'n' roll band is not church to me. But now, we will be back."
On Sunday, gone were the drummers and keyboard players. In were the organist, a sermon filled with Biblical references and a 27-member choir, led by the church's former choir director, John Tebay.
John Charles, who recently replaced Shuller Coleman as the chief executive officer, said Sunday's services had more attendance – 500 to 600 people at each – than any in the past year.
Although contemporary music has become the standard in most churches because it appeals to the younger audiences, churches often forget that the young folks don't pay the bills. The crowd that has found itself estranged from the church are the same people who used to be the faithful tithers. You lose the older folks and you lose a disproportional amount of your church's income.
By the way, how did the Schuller split-off church do on its first day?
Just a short walk from where her father starting preaching more than 50 years ago, Sheila Schuller Coleman on Sunday told the 100 or so congregants in a rented movie theater that she is embracing the challenge of forming a new church.I don't envy them. I've been in start-up churches and it's not much fun for anybody. Most of them fail, and frankly I don't think Coleman will have the drawing power needed to keep it going - especially if the old church rises from the ashes.