Monday, August 8, 2016

Church Visitations

     Over the past month we've been visiting nearby churches because I felt called to and not because we're looking for a new church. I've always known wherever you live, there are wonderful churches nearby and this was confirmed—a real comfort.
     We hadn't been able to travel much this past year so these visitations were like mini-trips/vacations for us, for when we travel I mainly like to see how other people live. Seeing how other people worship reveals a part of that...
     It's been a refreshing (and sometimes stressful) eye-opener. For the first times ever, I've attended Baptist, Episcopal, and Catholic Sunday, and a Jewish Shabbat services. They were all very modern (rockin' music with drums, ukulele, guitars, and choir in Catholic masswho knew?) and welcoming. The Jewish service was difficult to follow because so much of what was sung was in Hebrew with unfamiliar lyrics and melodies and because it had no preached or explanatory messages at all. It even had a communion-like partaking of bread and wine, which we passed on because we had no idea what it meant. (Per Internet research, wine represents “joy” and bread “abundance/provision.” If we'd known that then, we probably would have participated.) I found the Catholic mass stressful because of the church's huge laden history (good and bad) but nothing weirded me out because everything seemed somewhat familiar. With the exception a Baptist church full of seniors (average age 72?), attendance at all the churches and synagogue had sadly fallen from their heydays judging by the largely empty pews and vast campuses.  Next to the Baptist church, the Catholic church was the most filled of all, mostly with young adults. I wondered if the popularity of Pope Francis had anything to do with that or his openness to change with its contemporary/informal style. (Deanne attended a Catholic school for awhile and said mass there was a lot more traditional and formal.)
     There is at least one more church we'd like to visit which has ties to our church. Another church with ties that we visited had a beautiful pipe organ and a guest musician that played with four mallets one of the biggest marimbas I've ever seen (about 8' long?).  Jaren loved the Sunday school and asked even before we left, “Can we come back again?” The people there were so welcoming and we felt so comfortable, blessed, and secure. Braden was on a church trip at the time, so he and Pene didn't get to meet youth their ages (Pene sat with us through service—she didn't feel comfortable venturing out to Sunday school, which was broken out by age groups, without Braden—she'll learn.)
     The institutions' websites were good in providing general backgrounds and a feel for what the church/synagogue might be like, but none prepared us for the big-hearted welcomes, generous and real, that we felt when we walked in through the doors and I said, “We're visiting, is it alright if we sit in?” At the sister church in particular, they treated us like family and even tried to lure us in by describing a youth mission trip next year to the U.S. Mainland (to either the East Coast or Midwest) that they hope to raise enough funds for to make it free for all participants.
     So if you're not a regular church-goer, I highly recommend visiting the half-dozen or so nearby religious institutions to sit-in their services—just to see. It's our first times ever and am I ever glad we did!

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