Thinking Out Loud

December 7, 2010

The Schuller Family: For Greater Contrast, Skip a Generation

See info below re. these pictures

This blog has already been both a news source and sounding board for the continuing drama at the Crystal Cathedral that I am in two minds about this particular blog post.

However, Nicole Santacruz at the L.A. Times has written such a definitive article — even after it seems so much has already been written — that I cannot help but link to it here, and also respond to it.

The article begins not with the juxtaposition of Robert H. and Robert A., but skips a generation and looks at the contrast — and perhaps a few similarities — between Cathedral Founder Robert H. and grandson Bobby, who pastors The Gathering, just a few miles down the road.

The third-generation Schuller hopes to do what the landmark — and now bankrupt — Crystal Cathedral has apparently failed to: evolve with the times.

Bobby’s church, The Gathering, takes a low-key approach to worship. Sunday’s services aren’t in an opulent church. Young band members open the service, and it’s intimate — people don paper name tags and shake hands. All of these elements represent a “post-boomer” style of worship popular with 20- to 40-year-old Christians, said Richard Flory, a sociologist of religion at USC.

But the article goes beyond mere color commentary; here’s a take on the big glass church in Garden Grove:

“They are totally outdated,” Flory said. “They are so committed to a plot of land and a building, and they’ve got a problem.”

And this look at the annual “Glory of Christmas” pageant:

The Christmas production would begin to signify a culture of extravagance within the church: More than a dozen angels in white chiffon flew overhead, professional singers replaced volunteers, and live camels and donkeys took the stage.   (Emphasis added.)

And this interesting sidebar, a revelation about a production few of us had heard of:

[I]n 2005, Carol Schuller Milner, the third Schuller daughter, produced a multimillion-dollar pageant called “Creation,” which was poorly attended and never staged again.

Robert A.’s daughter provides some good insight:

“When you have a dynamic where faith, fame and family are all involved, it becomes difficult to prioritize faith,” she said. “Instead it becomes part of this mixture of family dynamics and fame dynamics.”

And the article also raises another issue, one being dealt with by multiplied numbers of churches:

“I think it’s true that any congregation has to figure out how its style of ministry affects more than one generation.” said Wes Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary for the Reformed Church in America, the denomination to which the Crystal Cathedral belongs. “You see evidence of that in Bobby’s service.”

Bobby, who’s now 29, gets the last word:

Bobby Schuller is an innovator like his grandfather, but the way he delivers his message of Christianity is drastically different. The stereotypical church, he said, is about a perfect building filled with perfect people, music and a perfect preacher.

“In other words, it’s not like life,” he said…

…Volunteers set up for the service each Sunday and take down the chairs and tables that afternoon. When the work is done, they all go out for pizza. More than 90% of church funds go toward social justice issues such as homelessness and domestic violence.

“Our goal is to make big Christians, not big churches,” he said.

There’s more to the L.A. Times article.   I’ve excerpted a few sections here only because many of you don’t take the time to click the link, but hoping you will, here is the story link again.

Recent coverage here of the Crystal Cathedral saga:

…and also…

  • Wednesday Link List from a few days ago, with the link to a very recent, unscheduled TV interview Robert A. did with 100 Huntley St.

About the photos:   I decided we needed a different kind of photo of the big glass temple, and in searching for an arial photo, came across this one from Google Earth that had been posted at the site Sacred Destinations, and decided to take a chance on the copyrighted photo as well.  (If it’s not there, I lost that battle!)   I got to visit the original Garden Grove Community Church in 1979, and then my wife and I did the larger facility in 1989.  There are additional photos and story at that website.

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2 Comments »

  1. I visited the crystal palace about four or five years ago. Sorry, no disrespect intended… I mean cathedral, not “palace.” I mention this, because that moniker got stuck in my mind and I could never seem to shake it. Why “palace”? Maybe because I just couldn’t seem to “get it” as being what it was intended to be, i.e., a “cathedral”. It didn’t seem anything like one to me. There was no feeling of reverence or any type of sacred awe to the place. Quite frankly, it seemed very artificial and hoaky — again, no spiritual sense or feeling to the place, or its grounds. Of course, I may feel that way because I’m not easily impressed by a lot of so-called grandiose places of worship, no matter what religion or denomination, including my own, notwithstanding there will always be those who would defend the place by inferring that I am to bring the spirit with me, rather than expecting it to be magically there. In any case, I suppose this place is notable to me because it was my wife who took me there lauding it as she had always enjoyed the Christmas and Easter pageants years ago. Mmm…, I suppose lady angels wearing chiffon dresses and sporting gauze wings while flying through the air attached to steel cables doesn’t really put me into, what I would consider, the spirit of Christmas, but for her and others… Whatever.

    I liked the comment: “Our goal is to make big Christians, not big churches.” Now, for me, that’s a “cathedral” concept worth more than the weight of steel, glass, mortar, and cable-strung angels.

    Comment by Paul B — December 7, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

  2. How did it happen ,that a man with what appeared to be a thoroughly grounded belief in his own positive stance of “positive,and possibility thinking”,ever arrive where we see him today???Maybe we had not detected that secret love life of Narcissism JL

    Comment by Joe Lambert — December 8, 2010 @ 3:35 am


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