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As Crystal Cathedral struggles, Robert Schuller's grandson starts a laid-back church

November 27, 2010 | 10:35 am

Three miles from the Crystal Cathedral in an American Legion Hall, a 29-year-old pastor in a purple sweater and blue jeans takes the pulpit. He rocks from heel to toe, casually joking with the congregants — today they almost had to meet at the park because a pancake breakfast threatened their rented space.

His message? "You are welcome here."

That pastor is Bobby Schuller, grandson of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, 84, the televangelist pioneer who founded the TV ministry "Hour of Power" and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.

The third-generation Schuller hopes to do what the landmark — and now bankrupt — Crystal Cathedral has apparently failed to: evolve with the times.

Bobby's church, the Gathering, takes a low-key approach to worship. Sunday's services aren't in an opulent church. Young band members open the service, and it's intimate — people don paper name tags and shake hands. All of these elements represent a "post-boomer" style of worship popular with 20- to 40-year-old Christians, said Richard Flory, a sociologist of religion at USC.

The cathedral, on the other hand, is known for grand productions, robed pastors and traditional hymns. The age of its average congregant is 53.

"They are totally outdated," Flory said. "They are so committed to a plot of land and a building, and they've got a problem."

Read more: "The Schullers: a tale of two churches."

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

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Photo: The Crystal Catherdal in Garden Grove. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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