“If you ever get sick and need to go to the hospital,” my dad proposed, “go to a Seventh-Day Adventist hospital.”
Master of health care human resources and well-read labor economist, my father never ceased to provide us with useful information. At one point, I knew exactly who to ask for manager-wise in a hospital at any given time of day. I had nursing positions, schedules and salaries memorized and recognized a somewhat disheartening fact: very few hospitals are still owned and operated by a non-profit entity, like a religious organization or government locale.
Hospitals, nursing homes, retirement facilities and other health care spaces are often associated with a religion. Putting “Saint” in front of everything makes the public immediately think, “Catholic.” In Kansas City, we have “Menorah” hospital, which obviously points towards Judaism. Most of these places, however, are no longer associated with the faith, but rather, a for-profit corporation that has essentially bought the operation, and therefore, the name. Don’t think that by choosing “Saint So-and-So Hospital” for your healthcare needs that you will be attended to by nuns and priests. It’s just not that common anymore.
But the Seventh-Day Adventists are different. They have stayed true to their faith and calling to operate their facilities based on a religious purpose. Though religion can be used to oppress, it can also liberate. When everything is based on thoughtful prayer, people tend to be happier, salaries higher and patients cautiously cared-for. If I am sick, there is a comfort in knowing that the person plunging a needle into my arm feels a sense of religious duty to do so. He or she is answering to God and is concerned with not only job, but spiritual security.
The Adventists do not stop at health care, either. In Oberlin, they held a monthly clothing swap for students and community members, weekly meals and plenty of no-pressure opportunities for musical involvement. As an outsider looking in, they seemed to me a generous, deeply prayerful people who truly believed in what they were doing and were doing what they believed.
I guess I expected their worship service to reflect this intense passion. I at least hoped for an extreme, as the Quakers’ silence, as the Orthodox’s ceremony or as the Assemblies of God’s speaking in tongues. I would have been content with one or two “Amens” from the congregation. The Adventists must be using all their religious zealousness toward mission and not praise, though, because that was one boring service. There were exactly two points of interest: they almost over-utilized old Southern gospel hymns (i.e. “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder) and the preacher had an accent that was some strange mixture of New York, Boston, Ireland, England and Australia. I spent most of the service texting my mom in contemplation, trying to figure out his native country.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on the purpose of this journey and this blog. Is it to be critical or curious? Is it to be open-minded or jaded? And now, is it a journey of “10 Churches,” as stated simply in my blog address, or a journey of “10 Faiths”?
Reading back through my posts, Lenexa Christian (Mega-Church #4, Church #15) caught my eye. After all, the Assemblies of God as a faith has been vicious and hateful toward some of my dearest friends. Their statements and policies concerning homosexuality are perhaps some of the most extreme in the Christian religion. That service, however, was one of the best worship experiences of my life. Using this logic, the Seventh-Day Adventist’s faith could trump worship service just as easily as the AG’s service trumped faith.
So what—the service was boring. But I’ve been to Shawnee Mission Medical Center’s Emergency Room twice in the past year, spending more time there than in worship with the Adventists. Shouldn’t that be my basis for any judgments for or against their faith? Less than one hour of worship versus needles, x-rays and diagnosis: Am I will to trust these people with an hour of my Saturday morning? No. But am I willing to trust them with my life? Absolutely.