This is pure fiction.  I was sitting with my lectionary group yesterday when the Mall of America came up.  I don’t remember why.  Someone said they’re supposed to have everything there — did they have a chapel?  I said something about feeling sometimes that the mall was the true church of these United States.

Anyway, I don’t have to preach this Sunday.  (The bishop’s coming.)  Everyone else kept working on the lessons.  My mind went sideways.  I wrote this last night:

Visiting St. Bo’s

 So guess what!  We all went to St. Bo’s last Sunday.

I know.  We’ve been talking about going back to church for just ages now.  And we finally did it.  And we had such a great time, we’re planning to go back again next Sunday.  In fact, I think we’ll make a habit of it.  The boys liked it.  Even Bob.  And you know Bob.  After a hard week at the office, it’s either golf or the TV set.  But he not only had a good time.  He made contacts he can use in the real world.

I know some people think it’s tacky.  They call it a pay as you go church.  But at least they give you something real for your money.  You always feel like you’re getting true value for what you spend.

You’ve got to admire the way they let everyone in, so long as they make some kind of a contribution at the gate.  But we thought we’d make money, in the end, with an all day family pass.  It doesn’t cover most of the consumables, except the Lord’s Supper.  But it does cover all the holy activities you wish to participate in.  And there are just so many to choose from.

They gave us little wrist bands, so people would know we’d paid upfront.  And I figured it would be simpler that way.  Otherwise you’re always trying to figure out if you can afford to do something or not.  And it begins to add up after a while.

I mean, they don’t charge much for the hymn singing.  But if you’re paying by the hymn, after a while you figure you need to move on, whether you really want to or not.

It’s not that we can’t afford it, mind you.  But we are fiscally conservative people.  Waste not, want not.  That’s what Bob always says, and I’m sure it’s in the Bible somewhere.

We all started with drinks, by the way.  And they were quite reasonable – less than you’d pay in a good coffee shop or at a soda fountain.  And we went on from there to the hymn sing.  We all stayed together for Amazing Grace.  Then Bob and I wondered over to the praise hymns, and the kids went together to the rock hymn amphitheater.  I’m not really sure what all they did after that.  I know they went their separate ways.  But I also know that they have moral and upright chaperones circulating to watch out for the kids.  So it’s like having a baby sitter and a theme park all at a discount.  And the theme is God.  How great is that?

I know Bobby Jr. went to a biblical arts drama show somewhere along the way.  And he says the special effects were just outstanding.  And Jillie and Tammie were together at the doll display modeling biblical fashions – though they split up after that.  But all the kids ran into friends, and doing things with you peers, under supervision, really builds a sense of satisfaction and community.

I mean, that was true for Bob and me too.  We went from the hymns to a session on praying for those you love.  After that, I went to a passion play, and Bob went to a living Word of God presentation.  They had actors made up like characters in the bible story they read.  And periodically they’d turn on the lights while the actors froze in place to represent the scene.  He says it was very lifelike.

Anyway, we didn’t want to spend to long on the churchy side of things.  So we each went on to the Supper of the Lord – though I think he was in and out before I got there.  They have it streamlined.  There’s a continuously moving line.  They read the words of institution while you pick up your communion packet from one of the clergy.

They hand it to you as you go by.  Once you’re outside again, you open up the plastic, eat your bread, and drink your grape juice.  They even include a little towelette so you can clean up afterwards.  And they have the trash cans conveniently placed.  And they even have people who sort out the recyclables later, so you don’t have to worry about that.

And the whole thing doesn’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes!

So after that, I gathered with a group of mothers.  They called it the Holy Mother’s Support Group.  There was a special charge for entry, because of the extra food and drink provided.  But once you were in, everything was free.  We shared babysitters names and phone numbers and talked about the challenges in finding good after school care for working mothers.  They even had a list of recommended after school programs – including a number of options located conveniently right there at St. Bo’s.  Not to mention their after school club – a mixture of supervised homework preparation and rides with their friends.

I mean, you’ve gotta feel good about a church that provides a safe environment for your children.  I sent all the kids to the club this week.  It was wonderful – all their homework was done before I picked them up.  Plus they burned up enough energy to make them manageable at home.  And, once again, their rates are very competitive.  Throw in God, and how can you lose?

Bob joined a group of men who discussed how to find a Godly edge in your working life.  That one was free, because they only provided regular coffee.  So it was covered by the entrance fee.  And Bob not only met some folks he can probably do business with, but afterwards, they went over to St. Bo’s golf course.

That’s a separate fee, of course.  But they have a tram that takes you over to the starting tee, and brings you back to the church gates when you’re finished.  He called on the cell when he was on his way back, so we knew right when to meet him there.

I’d always wanted to have the kids baptized.  So I sent them on the Baptismal Water Ride.  Every kid who went had to have at least one parent receive baptismal instruction for them while they took the ride.  And from what they said, there was just enough water involved to make it exciting (and they told the parents they had misters in place, to be sure they didn’t miss anyone by accident).  They weren’t soaking when they came back, so that was good.  And I mean, baptism is like church, I’d been meaning to get around to it for years.  And they had nice, optional silver crosses available for purchase to mark the occasion.  We got three.

So, that’s another thing checked off the list.

And wouldn’t you know it, they have a full amusement park.  It’s included in the entry fee.  At least if you get the all inclusive package.  So that’s what the kids did while Bob played his round of golf.  Only 9 holes last Sunday.  But he’ll take the shuttle home after a full 18 holes next Sunday.  He’s really looking forward to it.

And so are the kids.  They were active enough I didn’t mind them watching TV and playing computer games the rest of the day.  And they were tired enough they all went to sleep without too much fuss.  I mean, they were a bit fussy.  But they really conked out pretty quickly.

My only complaint was that they kept coming back to me for more money for food treats and shopping.  But one of the other mothers told me I just need to learn to set limits ahead of time, and make them clear.  They have a sheet that shows all the possibilities, so I can plan ahead.  And they even have a class, a free class, to work on setting boundaries on church spending with your kids.  So that shouldn’t be a long term problem.  Although, given the time I spent in the shops while we waited for Bob, I may need another class for myself!

But the best thing is, this is a church that will never just ask you for money.  If you give them money, you know you’re going to receive a specific service for it.  No charitable contributions asked.  No fundraising.  It’s a real pay as you go operation.  And that’s one of the reasons we’ve been holding off going back to church.  Bob and I just didn’t feel comfortable giving people our money for no good reason.  We’re Americans.  We expect a return on our investment.  And not just somewhere in the sweet by and by.

So let me tell you, I’ve just started.  But I don’t think you’ll find a better church to take your family to than St. Bo’s by the fairway.  Nobody else can provide what they do.  Certainly not at the same price.

Maybe you’d like to come with us next Sunday.