Blessings to Go

ROBIN BRANCH

February 12, 1993|By ROBIN BRANCH

Fort Lauderdale, Florida. -- A pastor in Pensacola, Florida, is doing for church what McDonald's did for food. The Rev. Thaine E. Ford has introduced ''fast church'' to his congregation in what he calls the Compact Mini 22-Minute Worship Service.

With a sermon, hymn singing, a Scripture reading, prayers and plenty of time to pass the plate, Mr. Ford guarantees that his congregations will be out the door and on the way home, to the beach or wherever they're going in 22 minutes flat.

Or they get their money back?

Worship for the '90s.

McChurch.

To squeeze everything in, Mr. Ford schedules just two hymns per service and limits his sermon to eight minutes.

He told a reporter, only half facetiously, that his service is ''for people whose parents made them go to church all their lives and they thought they had all the church they could stand. Or, it's a good entry-level church, for people to see if they can take religion in smaller doses.''

He also says the tradition of late-morning services is obsolete. ''Why does a church service have to start at 11 a.m. and last for an hour or more?'' he asks. Turns out, a church service doesn't have to start at 11 a.m. and last for an hour or more. Fast church starts at 8 a.m.

No doubt Mr. Ford is already being pestered by would-be franchisers of the Compact Mini 22-Minute Worship Service. One can only imagine the gleam in the eye of would-be competitors scribbling potential advertising slogans frantically on their scratch pads:

''At McChapel, we do it your way: 19 minutes and you're outta here.''

''Pew City: Try our 16-minute Early Bird Sunday Worship Service and make your 7 a.m. tee-off with time to spare.''

''Worship U.S.A., where if you're in by 8, you're out by 8:11. All supplications written on the premises.''

Christian rock singer Amy Grant should be prepared to field dozens of lucrative offers to become celebrity spokesperson for fast church: ''Hi, I'm Amy Grant. When you're a famous Christian rock singer such as myself, time is money. That's why for me, it's Worship U.S.A., where if you're in by 8 you're out by 8:11.''

All of which is well and good. But, you ask, what about people like me? People who are in a serious hurry?

That's where my idea comes in. For people like you, who are in a serious hurry, I'm thinking drive-through window.

That's right. Worship-to-Go. Pick up what you need, pop it into the tape deck and hit the highway. That way, when the service ends, you're already at home or the beach or wherever.

It works for banks. It works for burgers. It'll work the same way for blessings. And I mean it will work exactly the same way, even to the unintelligible drive-through speakers.

''Welcome (squawk) McChurch. (Screech) your order, (squawk)?''

''I'll have a homily, two psalms and a hallelujah chorus.''

''You (squawk) a proverb with that?''

''Yeah, I guess so. Uh, and how about a side of vespers?''

''That'll be (screech) and 40 cents. Drive (squawk) (screeeeeech).''

L Forget the golden arches. From here on in it's golden gates.

What next? Heaven only knows.

Robin Branch is a columnist for the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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