The church I grew up in was quiet and well-reserved. We stood to read His word, sat for instruction during the homily and kneeled with reverence during prayer. There was incense and a mini-parade :-) or processional, on high holy days. I must admit I love the incense and still miss it. We shook hands quietly when we offered the peace, 'May the peace of the Lord be with you. And also with you.' I loved the pipe organ, communion and how we all drank from the same cup. For the record, you will never get sick from taking communion. It's a fact! It can not and will not happen and I will bet you a paycheck on that. We went as a family and usually stayed after for little sandwiches and punch. I have such fond memories of that church. And after service you felt relaxed and refreshed. Yup, but we colored inside the lines.
Now, as I am older I appreciate what Salvation means but this baptist church experience is a whole different ball game. Color inside the lines? Pull-ease, every week that box of crayons is thrown on the floor, all over the place. It's almost never quiet. Folks are clapping, waving their hands, shouting praises, putting up holy hands and at the end of service, sometimes you're spent, sweaty and ready for a hot shower. There are no rules here but to praise the Lord as how you see fit. And offering the peace is a 'holy hug or a sanctified kiss.' Folks are spilling down the aisles hugging and kissing on strangers like they were your long, lost friend. Old, young, thin, or a little round, it's going to go down. Somebody is going to hug you. Be uncomfortable if you want because it's not going to stop them. It lasts like 10 minutes while the choir sings the welcome song, it's great! I don't mean to suggest it's disorderly but it's exciting, exhilarating and after service I feel like I could do anything. What, climb mountains? After service I could. Run a marathon? Is the choir going to be there? I'm in. And I'm not exaggerating, it's great. And it's like that every Sunday.
And as for the choir, they usher in the Holy Spirit like they have the hotline to Jesus. I love it. It's a variety of different genres, spirituals, contemporary gospel you name it. My favorite is Let us Break Bread Together, it's only played during communion but it moves me every time. In fact, I'll share a secret (I'm whispering here) I like to stand during the song, I don't know why because no one else in the congregation is standing. But you know what, I stand because at my church however you praise is however you praise.
My pastor is also great. Sermons are introspective, interesting and interactive. His love of the Lord is evident. I always learn something new about being a Christian and attribute this church with teaching me to be intentional about my relationship with Christ and to witness to others by how I serve them. Serving is simply how I treat people each and everyday. This is not to suggest that I shouldn't join a ministry or serve as an usher. It simply means that people who meet me should know that there is something different about me. The premise is that by serving another person, they recognize that whatever this Jesus-thing I got is hot and they want some too.
My church also has classes of course - women's bible study, corporate bible study, etc. But these are not your Momma's bible study. In fact, on Saturday we had a prayer summit. What's that? It was an all-out, no-holds-barred session on prayer. Let me tell you, I only caught the last hour or so and was done. I ended up on somebody's proverbial couch getting all the free counseling I could get. A little prayer put things in perspective and all those things I've been wrestling with didn't seem so encompassing. I left feeling renewed, restored and ready. And here I thought boot camp (Day 5) was all I needed. I was wrong, I needed prayer.
Not only are the classes phenomenal, so are the people. I'm not kidding. When I tell you my church family is real, I mean it. Look at my roomie (Day 23), she was only some 'random chick from bible study' but that didn't stop me from opening up my home and heart to her. And likewise, she was down for the cause and moved right in. When I bought a used manual pick-up truck, don't ask, I simply called up my 'Big Brother' Warren Matthews from church. He literally came over the next day and showed me how to drive. And I have a gazillion other stories like that about my church family. Things that people do for each other all the time. Did your car break down? Don't worry, you can use mine. Air conditioner go out? No worries, you can sleep on my couch until you get it fixed. Need prayer? I'll pray with you and for you.
This is not to say my church is perfect. C'mon it's made up of us - people. There's bound to be some shenanigans from time to time. But it's all good. It's interesting to me that folks ask me how my church is doing. Let me give you some background. We were building a new sanctuary right when the market turned. The builder went under, the project was over budget, we had sold our old building, something happened with the loan, I can't remember but basically it was a perfect storm of events. So our temporary location has been extended a few years. Yeah, well chains are still being broken, captives are still being set free, folks are still giving their lives to Christ and I've never felt so fed. In fact, folks better hope Pastor doesn't want to meet at the grocery store, because it's gonna be tight in there with all those boxes of cereal and oatmeal. And I mean it, I don't know where our next move will be and basically I don't care because I'm gonna be right there with my church family.