Finding a new church is not fun, but we’re just gluttons for punishment in that way. We had a good break from church altogether, but breaks aren’t meant to last. So we did some research online and found out that some churches really should update their websites more frequently. We picked up the local paper and didn’t learn anything useful. Finally, it was Sunday and time to go to church.
We had ruled out all Southern Baptist Churches (and thus 75% or more of the churches in the county) because we were at odds with their secondary and tertiary doctrines which they pushed as of primary importance. In doing so, we had ruled out the contemporary services (which was what we wanted) because even if their service style was compatible, their theology was not.
So we arrived at the Methodist church. It was a big, new building – I can’t remember if it was a stone, brick, or wood building, that sort of thing isn’t important to me. Walking into the foyer, I was surprised to see so many people lingering in the hallway carrying on in conversation.
New people always stick out, so a few people had to come on over and greet us. I went head to find us a spot in the back – but before I could chose a seat, the pastor (who was also new to the church) said hello. Now I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible with people – and people freak me out, especially when get too close. I once left a church when it’s members became a hugging church. (Which I’m told is now the norm for them.) So I was less than thrilled when a lady leaned into my personal space to talk to the people sitting just beside me. (I so wanted to say: “Ma’am, I have space issues, stop leaning in! Please go away.” Fortunately, years of boredom and manners in various churches had taught me restraint and I did not say what I wanted to.)
The service was traditional, but at least there was no thumbing through dusty, half-broken, well-used hymnals, the words were displayed on screen. One song I didn’t sing because I didn’t recognize the tune to it. I was surprised to see such variance in ages – in my last church, I was the only one my age. In this church, there were more young people. I sometimes wonder if it works for them because they didn’t know church could be different – contemporary.
The preaching was based on the parable of the soils, the idea was that we ought to be a plow to the difficult people around us and find a way to help the seeds that are planted by the farmer grow. My thoughts:
1.) Plows operate by cutting through hard soil, bringing up the bottom of the soil to the surface and up-ending the surface soil. In doing so, some nutrients are brought up to the surface (for the plants) and any crops or weeds from last year are able to break down into nutrients for next year. It sounds o.k. in theory, but it doesn’t really build up the soil to become healthier overall. What nutrients are taken out by the plans are replaced by the weeds and left-overs breaking down, but that’s breaking even. It’s not improving the condition of the soil for the next crop to do even better. The very act of plowing makes some of the surface soil (and the nutrients therein) easily blown away by the wind or removed by erosion.
2.) Difficult people aren’t difficult just because they woke up that morning and decided to be difficult (I know because I’d classify myself as ‘difficult’ in some senses of the word, though not all). It’s what happens over time because of bad experiences they’ve had with other people. You bought a good used car, they bought a lemon. You made a good investment, they got taken in by a con man. You never met a person you didn’t like, they never met a person who didn’t take advantage of them in some way. Asking pointed questions to drudge up what they keep buried isn’t your job – it’s more important to be the one person who isn’t like everyone else they’ve ever met.
3.) Sometimes I think I just know too much and think too much about these things. I probably shouldn’t have watched the documentary about the Dust Bowl that mentioned the film ‘The Plow that Broke the Plains’ which blamed farming techniques for being partially responsible (a severe drought / heat wave was also partially responsible) for that particular disaster.
The service concluded with communion. The one interesting thing about communion is that no two churches handle it exactly alike. Coming out of a Southern Baptist then Non-Denominational background, I’m glad to say that we sat this one out, as we’d never seen it done with kneeling before. Add to that a gluten allergy and you can see how awkward it is to be a guest in a church of a different denomination.
(I used to like to joke that I’m so Non-Denominational, I don’t mind going to a Southern Baptist Church. Now I’m so Non-Denominational, I’m trying out a Methodist Church. Here’s an interesting historical note about the two churches, the Southern Baptists split from the Northern Baptists over the question of Slavery, they wanted to keep the institution intact. Some of the Methodists were Abolitionists and helped the Underground Railroad, in my book, they get 100 bonus points* for valuing people over the system that was oppressing them. *the bonus points have no actual value, I just hold them in higher esteem.)
Overall, it wasn’t down-right terrible. It was just … different. Coming to terms with the fact that the sort of church we want just doesn’t exist in this county (theologically compatible contemporary) was pretty tough, having to find something we can all settle with won’t be easy – this whole region seems to want to stick to traditionalism and our experience is that too much tradition can be a very bad thing.
I’ve had a whole day to think about the experience and I’m still not sure how I feel. Will it be the perfect church? No. Will it be good enough? Only time will tell.