Some 30 or 40 worshipers shuffled in on Sunday morning to the basement of Freedom House, a community center in inner-city Boston that is part of Azusa Christian Community. The "altar" (a folding table draped with a brightly colored African linen) was circled by three rows of folding chairs on which had been placed, on alternating chairs, NIV study Bibles. There was no bulletin. The worship songs were familiar choruses, raucously proffered—the love of King Jesus was "tumblin' down" that morning.
"Julian" (not his real name) came in and sat down nervously, clutching his Bible. His gold earring jumped out like the exclamation point to his shaved head. His sweater glowed white, and his crisp white pants almost crackled when he sat down.
Julian asked for prayer for his Jewish neighbor during the prayer time. "Yes, Lord. He's my buddy, Lord," he repeated, throughout the petition.
At other junctures during the service, Julian had other things to say. "Pastor," he said, "I thought you were going to be gone today."
"No, Julian," the pastor replied in a quiet voice, "I'm leaving later this afternoon. It's time to settle down, Julian."
And for a while, Julian settled, blurting out random comments only now and then. But at the conclusion of what had become a two-hour worship service, just as the pastor dismissed the worshipers, Julian had one more thing to say. "I have a prayer to the Lord," he said standing up. "Everybody open your Bibles." Those who had started to shuffle out stopped and turned. "Everybody get your Bibles!"
"Julian," the pastor said, "It's time to go. Now say your prayer."
"I'm not going to 'til everybody opens their Bibles," Julian snapped. "This is prayer to the Lord. You mean nobody cares enough to say a prayer to the ...