It's not easy to describe the church.

The first time I attended LaSalle Street Church in inner-city Chicago, I sat behind a middle-aged black woman and her thirteen-year-old daughter. When we stood to sing, the girl turned around and grinned at those of us in the pew behind her. We smiled back politely, and she continued grinning and staring at us. She acted strange, even retarded. Then on the fourth stanza of the hymn, she bent over, grabbed the hem of her skirt, and lifted it over her head, exposing herself.

Welcome to church.

Over the next few years, we learned to count on the unexpected. One Sunday a man aimed a football, a perfect spiral pass, at the pastor who was standing at the altar praying over a full tray of Communion glasses.

Another time, a street woman wrapped in many skirts wandered to the platform during the sermon, genuflected, and started talking aloud to the pastor.

A more hostile man called down curses on the pastoral staff during the congregation's spontaneous "Prayers of the People": "God, burn down their ...

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