The Individual Church Observation

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On the evening of March 19, 2016, I visited the church Riverside Drive located at 490 Riverside Drive, New York. The church takes an entire block on the street between 120th and 121st. I observed that the street had so many beautiful cars parked in front of the Riverside Drive building. The congregants can park for $4 in the garage below the church, after stamping their parking tickets at the rear table to enable them to get to the lobby and the building entrance.

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I have been part of this church analysis class for the spring semester of 2016. This means I certainly have a much better understanding of what I should expect from other churches I visit at the riverside drive in New York. Most importantly, I now have an idea of what I should expect from my church. I think after this class, the pastor and I together with the congregation should consider inviting other churches to participate in changing church analysis for the better. However, that is an assignment for another day.

It around 7:03 pm on Wednesday, March 19, 2016, I went through the church sanctuary entrance door where the service was taking place. The usher sitting across the table inside the church hall was handing program pamphlets to the people who came to the praise and worship service at Riverside Drive Church. My assignment is to follow the instructions of my professor, Dr. Moses for the church analyzes class spring semester 2016. About 150 people attended the praise and worship service, including one student from my class. When I arrived at the service, I observed the worship session was conducted by six people: 3 men and 3 women who performed three straight songs.

The first song was here I am to worship, the second when Oasis goes up, and the third friend of the God. The praise team consisted of Chris Tomlin and the Georgia Mass Choir Israel Houghton. Before they continued with the service, the praise team was joined by Hortensia Gooding, Miranda Hawkins, The Rev. Eugene R. Palmore, Dr. Sherri Pratt, Jannes Roacher, Clarissa Sinceno, Geradine Sinceno, Patricia Washington, and Saint Christopher Wilkerson, and praise team leader Samuel Appiah.

The Deaf Ministry

This is the most common model I see in Riverside Drive Church.While there are places where this model seems to be working and thriving, such places are rare. Generally, this is one of the least effective models. On behalf of the deaf people who attend church, I am impressed because it is not every church that has a Deaf ministry. Members of the deaf ministry include Parker Burton lll, Patrice Harington, and Patricia Washington.

The Worship Leaders

Rev: Bertram Johnson, Rev: Kevin Wright, Rachel Johnson.

To introduce the term worship, my father regularly read Psalm chapter 96 verse 9 in our evening services. The verse goes like "O worships the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. The congregation began singing while Sister Patricia stood by the side to perform sign language for the benefit of those who have hearing problems. The entire church sang songs with the praise team, including those who have hearing problems. After the worship session, Edwin Hawkins came to the podium to make some announcements and welcomed any visitors who come to worship at the church for the first time. He also asked for a blanket donation and spoke about the upcoming holy week, explaining what they were going to do for the holy week.

The reading was read by Rev Dr. Patrice Hawkins, who asked the congregation to rise for the reading. The first reading from Isaiah 43:16-21, and second from Philippians.3:4-14. The Scripture was translated into three Languages English, Spanish and French. Dr. Patrice Harrington spoke about something that was going to happen in Washington DC. Then, he asked the ushers to collect the offering right after this and requested the Choir to sing a hymn titled O Happy Day. Three male and one female usher passed baskets around the service to collect the offering. The pastors and everyone else was very enthusiastic to give their offerings. When the ushers finished collecting the offering, they brought the baskets to the front for a blessing prayer.

Then it was time for the word of God presented by Rev. Dr. Bertram Johnson. The congregation gave him a warm welcome as he went on to elaborate on the passage from Isaiah 43:16-21. The theme of the sermon was that something new was going to happen at the Riverside Drive Church. So what did this have to do with the message for that day and the scripture from Isaiah? The point of Rev. Johnsons message was that if we are willing to approach the changes in life as if they were an adventure, then were more likely to experience the new thing that God wants to do in our midst, as God is always up to something new!

Rev Bertram Johnson explained that experiencing change without transition was to be a victim of the change. Also, to truly benefit from the experience and come out on the other side a much better person, we have to go through a process of transition no matter how big or small someone is. Prophet Isaiah was addressing the Israelites who were being threatened by geopolitical changes around them. The survival of their nation and the people of God depended on how they responded to those changes and the challenges. The same truth applies to Christian churches today as we have been inundated with reports and interpretations from the latest Pew Forum Report on the Religious Landscape in America. I do believe that if were going to embody faithfully the transformative Spirit that the church is supposed to embody, then we have to approach the changes in our world. However, we should not do as victims of a changing world but rather as masters of change who help shape the world into the Kingdom of God.

Rev: Bertram Johnson concluded his message by encouraging the congregation not to give up on America as God was going to do something new. The sermon was very uplifting, and the congregations applauded him as he finished his preaching. Right after the sermon, they served the holy communion in which 95% of the congregation participated in the super of the Lord. As a song titled Lead Me Lord, In Your Righteousness by Samuel Sebastian Wesley played, the service ended at 8:13 pm with a benediction. The congregation was served with the refreshment provided that included, juice, fruits, cookies, etc.

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