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Ministers: John Mack and Barbara Gerlach

Service Length: 90 minutes

Service Attendance: about 65

Sample Worshipper Dress: orange floral-pattern blouse, black pants

Name Tags: optional

Congregational Fervor

A recent Sunday service was plagued by minor technical difficulties. As a choir member attempted to walk worshippers through the hymn “Hush, Hush, Somebody’s Calling My Name,” problems with the wireless-mic system scrambled her voice into a Darth Vader–like rasp for several minutes. Thankfully, the PA was restored in time for a rousing Lenten confession. “The unsettledness of our world has unsettled our heart and shaken our confidence in you,” the congregation recited.

Food for the Soul

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Gerlach delivered the sermon, titled “A Sense of Belonging,” about the trials of maintaining one’s convictions when alone or in the minority. But Gerlach struggled to concentrate on this single clear message; spanning at least 25 minutes, two peace-conference anecdotes, and several tangents, the sermon was still adrift and searching for its own identity by the end.

Food for the Body

For its coffee hour, First Congregational offered a refreshment table not devoid of pleasant surprises. Built upon such snacking fundamentals as veggie trays, fruit, and cheese cubes, the spread found its greatest strength in a large National Mall–themed birthday cake, whose tasty vanilla frosting complemented its coconut-flavored grass.

Overall Worship Power Rating

When First Congregational prints the words “Intentionally Inclusive” on the cover of its worship program, it means every word. The United Church of Christ, taking a cue from more conservative religious groups, recently produced a series of TV commercials. One, titled “The Bouncer” (available for viewing at stillspeaking.com), depicts two muscular males guarding a velvet rope at a church door, turning away minorities and gay couples. “Jesus didn’t turn people away,” the spot states. “Neither do we.”

—Aaron Leitko