Every Sunday, Joel and I stay as long as possible after the service to hear more about the church, get a feel for its groupies and talk about our project. And nearly every week, Portland’s pew-huggers have been saying the same two words to us:


As in, “Have you been to Imago Dei yet?”

Or, “I’d love to read what you think about Imago Dei!”

But mostly, it’s been some variation on, “I bet you guys will really dig Imago Dei. It’s cool/hip/different.”

Which leads me to believe people actually think WE’RE cool. Or hip. Or maybe just different. I can’t speak for Joel on this one, but let me be the first to admit: I AM SO NOT COOL. I live in a paper mill town, for Christ’s sake. I drive an SUV with an NRA sticker on it and buy all my clothes at Target. I’m tragically UNhip. I bought these glasses at LensCrafters, people.But apparently we look like we belong at Portland’s Church of the Hip.

I suppose I should be flattered by that, so this is me saying THANK YOU. THANKS A LOT.

We got the impression that this church was kind of a Big Deal, what with everyone in town whispering its name into our ears like a grown-up game of telephone. So before heading out there, I made sure Joel sent them an e-mail to warn them we were coming.

From: Joel Gunz
Date: Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Subject: Visiting your church
To: pastorrick@imagodeicommunity.com, luke@imagodeicommunity.com
Dear Rick and Luke,
Amanda P. Westmont and I own a blog called “A Year of Sundays” (www.yearofsundays.com). Each week, we visit a different church and then write about the experience. We would like to visit Imago Dei this Sunday. Would one or both of you be available after the service for an interview? Also, do you permit photographs? We’re looking forward to seeing what your church has to offer.
Best regards,
Joel Gunz

Their response was underwhelming…

From: Davis, Caitlin
Date: Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 6:01 PM
Subject: Re: Visiting your church
To: Joel Gunz Hello Joel,
We have to decline the opportunity to meet with you, as we simply didn’t have enough lead time. This is a very busy weekend and both Rick & Luke have previously scheduled commitments. However, if you would like to visit on another Sunday, with enough lead time for us to plan, we would be glad to meet with you.
Thanks for inquiring
– Cheers,
Cait Davis
Executive Assistant to Rick McKinley
Imago Dei Community

ORLY? Not to get too full of myself and this podunk little blog, but honestly? You can’t find FIVE minutes after the service to talk to some religion bloggers? REALLY? We (theoretically speaking) want to write nice things about you and you decline? Wait, let me rephrase that: You have your SECRETARY decline.

Alrighty then.

I honestly tried to keep an open mind about this church. I wanted to like it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I tried to be objective because that would defeat the purpose of this blog, but still. I didn’t want to hold this church against, well, itself. And I was really REALLY looking forward to this service. My expectations were higher than they’ve ever been on a Sunday morning.So this is me being as open-minded as I possibly can about a church that is nothing more than a downtown Portland branch of FOURSQUARE.

Oh God! The Palm Pilots are at it again!

There, I said it: Imago Dei is EXACTLY like Foursquare. From the Palm Pilots right down to the Christian Supply Store red velvet tithe bags, these churches are carbon copies of one another.

Only Imago Dei is worse.

When Pastor Rick scuffed onto the stage in his untucked triple-XL button-down and this brillo-pad helmet of Lego hair, I disliked him immediately. And not just because he bears an eery resemblance to my ex-husband. But because I’ve never seen a preacher so lacking in kindness and generosity of spirit. He just sounded too angry and self-righteous.

What? I'm a super nice guy! Can't you tell from my teddy bear exterior?

I sat there watching him and wondering, what IS this man eating? Is it shame? anger? depression? sexual dysfunction? (Bob Dole would like you to know there’s a pill for that).

I value kindness above all other things (because it’s something I obviously need to work on myself) and while I think the pews at Imago Dei were OVERFLOWING with it, I couldn’t find any in their gregarious leader.