Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Sundays in America, writes that “four years after floating away from organized religion, I got the idea that I might want to go on a pilgrimage of sorts, tour a few other houses of worship, finally find out just what goes on in those churches.” So every Sunday for one church year, Easter to Easter, Shea visited a different church that identified itself as Christian. She traveled across the country, worshipping in mega-churches and small groups gathering in borrowed spaces, visited major mainline congregations and those of obscure denominations. She spent Sunday mornings in a “cowboy church” in Colorado, in Christian Science’s Boston “mother church,” in Georgia’s Maranatha Baptist Church (where Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school), in Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. She worshipped with America’s last Shaker community (in Maine!), a Mennonite congregation on a Hopi reservation, members of Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco, and many, many more, winding up her road trip with an unplanned visit to the nondenominational chapel at Denver International Airport.
She describes the worship space of each venue, the sort of welcome she received there, the music and message she heard, and the impression she was left with. Sometimes she provides some history about a denomination or congregation. Shea is open about being more comfortable in churches that preach love rather than fear, acceptance rather than judgment. But driven by curiosity, reverence, and an eagerness to be won over, she makes a fine guide on this unique journey