By Teena Myers
A couple with three children asked me for church recommendations. I suggested a few and then remembered a comment made by a single friend. “You will be treated different if you are a new family visiting.” To date, I have visited a church as a single woman. What would happen if six new faces walked in the door? The couple did not mind if I joined them, so I did.
I met the couple in a pristine parking lot. They had stopped at Starbucks. Two people wearing matching burgundy shirts greeted us at the door with bulletins. About that time the toddler son of the couple wanted to be picked up. When Daddy picked him up, he spilled his Starbucks coffee on his shirt. One of the people at the door left for paper towels. I had wipes in my purse and we resolved the problem before she returned.
The sign on the sanctuary door said, “No food or drink in the sanctuary.” This couple was accustomed to churches that allowed food and drink during a service. I pondered how the couple would have felt if they had been told to toss their coffees before entering the foyer. Instead, they were met with concern over the spilled coffee.
Mom and her two daughters stayed in the foyer while she finished her morning kick starter. Daddy, his son, and I entered the sanctuary. A man shook my hand. He did not identify himself as such, but I knew he was the pastor, because I had heard him speak at an event. He continued to walk about shaking hands.
The metal exterior stood in stark contrast to a beautiful beige, green and burgundy sanctuary. Mom and her daughters joined us during the worship songs. Initially sung out of tune by a man playing a guitar followed by a woman who sang in tune. I noted a number of people, men and woman, wearing the same burgundy shirts. Easy to spot an usher in this church.
The offering began with the story of the widow woman who gave her last meal to Elijah. I groaned, expecting a common mini sermon about giving all to be blessed. I was pleasantly surprised when he told the story without heaping guilt and condemnation upon us. The weekly budget of $7,800 was in the bulletin. As well as the tithes and offerings received last Sunday announcing a minimal shortfall of $300. I liked the transparency.
The church had just ended a week of Vacation Bible School. A considerable portion of the service was allotted to a recap of VBS. The children sang and quoted scriptures they had learned. Then returned to sit with their parents. I assumed this was a special service. Hence the numerous children in the audience. The following Sunday three girls chose flags from a storage bin and walked to the front to wave them during worship, then two adults led children in a parade around the perimeter of the church. Again children filled the congregation and were dismissed shortly before the pastor preached. Children given place in the sanctuary is one of the reasons my husband and I chose the church we currently attend. Unfortunately, the church changed over the years slowly pushing the children into a complete separation except for brief inclusions for special events.
The announcements were given jointly by the pastor and a woman. I assumed the woman was his wife. One thing stood out during the announcements. The pastor’s gratitude. He said “Thank You” more than once. I am not accustomed to hearing that much gratitude.
I already knew the church was nondenominational. During the sermon, I learned the pastor started as Southern Baptist. A church split ended with him leaving and taking most of the congregation with him. At the conclusion of the sermon he called for anyone who wanted to receive Jesus and informed us there were prophets at the far end of the altar who might have a word from the Lord. Sounded like the pastor had embraced the charismatic movement and had been given the left foot of fellowship from the Baptist. The following Sunday, the gifts of the Spirit operated freely, confirming my suspicions.
The husband of the family I was with asked me what I thought of the sermon. I thought the well balanced sermon about perspective was very good. The pastor had spoke words of encouragement and peace with calm reassurance.
“I like it better than the fire and brimstone sermons I have been hearing,” he said. That is one of the reasons they were looking for a new church. Life is harsh enough without being treated harshly in church. The couple left saying they might return. They did the following Sunday as did I, but I did not plan to visit again. My husband is content at our current church, and I am happy when he is happy.
I have had some interesting experiences visiting churches. This one was fairly uneventful, except for some old friends I spotted. Catching up was nice.