Random Blog Clay Feet: November 08, 2008
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Church Encounter

I have been spending the past few weeks with my sister-in-law in Pennsylvania. The last two week-ends I visited different churches but with similar results – very disappointing. In both cases I practically walked in, spent the morning in class and church and walked out without hardly a person asking where I was from or what I was doing there. I know that some people would say that it would not be like this if I were more friendly myself and that is probably true to some extent. But I find it difficult to buy into the claims that our churches are generally friendly places to visit after experiences like this two weeks in a row although I am always reminded that I do not do much better to others when they visit my church.

Anyway, I decided last night to get on the web and see if there were any alternatives within reasonable driving distance this week. I found that there were quite a number of churches within 50 miles of where I am staying but most of them were either a bit too far or were of a nature I didn't feel like trying to visit – like being in a different language etc. But one church got my attention partly because it was listed as having about 500 members compared to very small numbers for most of the rest of them.

Now a bigger church certainly doesn't guarantee that it will be a friendly church, but on the other hand I felt that maybe there might be a good reason so may people wanted to attend there. It was at least worth a try for one week. If it didn't work out I still have two more weeks to try to find a place to at least find someone half-way interested in talking with me. Besides, I found out after checking out the map directions that this church was almost closer than most of the others I had visited even though it was in another state.

When I arrived this morning and walked in I was pleasantly surprised to be eagerly greeted by several people at the door who refused to let me go until they had asked me quite a number of questions while they held my hand. It did not change much for the rest of the time. I had person after person come up to me and talk with me, greet me, ask me my name and where I was from etc. and then tell me they were very glad to see me. And I sensed that it was not a put-on but these people had a spirit that was genuinely glad that I had come today. How refreshing.

Besides a friendly environment I was several times deeply moved, even to tears at times by some of the things that people shared during the service. I felt the Holy Spirit using words and music to touch my heart in a deep and meaningful way and I sensed that the Pastor also had an open spirit and mind. He preached on the Holy Spirit and I found it very compelling, convicting and moving personally. I suspect most people there were not affected nearly as much as I was, but God has been steering me along this line more and more recently and this was another step in that direction.

As is often the case I had to find a piece of paper so that I could capture the many thoughts that were swirling around in my head. All through the service I ended up jotting down things about the Holy Spirit and related ideas that were coming to my mind along with texts that were taking on new life and meaning for me while the Pastor was reading them. I was very blessed by the sermon and even heard it twice today as I attended both early and regular services. Since I had nothing else to do for the day where I am staying I decided to make a day of it if possible after arriving there early.

I was invited to stay for a lunch in the Junior Academy gym that I suspect is prepared weekly primarily in case visitors show up. It was good food and good fellowship as well. This is also a refreshing change from the much smaller church which I usually attend at home. There is generally something about a little larger church that makes it less stuffy and more relaxed than many small churches. In fact, this is one of the most diversely ethnic churches that I have been in for quite awhile and I was impressed with the seemingly complete lack of any racial tension within this community of believers.

I had some good talks with several people, was able to even get a chance to play the piano for a man I just met as he sang a couple songs after the service was over. He had sung one of them acapella for special music and I was wishing I could have played for him then. He is a more expressive singer which makes it much more difficult for him to find an accompanist, but that is also what I really enjoy when accompanying people. I like to play for people who put their heart into their singing in more expressive ways and I enjoy the challenge of trying to sense their emotions and synchronize with their expressions. He sang a couple very old gospel tunes that I recognized right away and we had a good time sharing music together.

At this point I certainly plan to go back to this same church next week and likely the last week I am here as well. Hopefully I can connect even more with some of the people I met today and maybe even establish some longer term friendships that might continue after I go back home. Who knows? But at least I have found a place that fulfills my desire to fellowship on Sabbath while I am away from home and I am very thankful for the welcoming spirit that I enjoyed today from all of these people.

I will likely meditate some more on the notes that I took today and write them up in a separate post. But that is what is happening in my life right now.