Including us, twenty-one people have gathered. Up front, a rugged wooden cross has a purple cloth draped over it and a white dove perched on the crosspiece. The bird seems out of place until my wife reminds me we’re at a Pentecostal church, and it represents the Holy Spirit.
We stand to begin the service, open the hymnal to the announced page, but see the wrong song. Everyone else sings. We’ve never heard the tune and without the words, we can’t participate; it’s lonely, standing mute while others sing with abandon.
The accomplished pianist’s playing reminds me of ragtime. The bass player accentuates the sound. Some clap with enthusiasm, and it wouldn’t have surprised me to see someone slapping their thigh or stomping their foot. We seem to have traveled to a different time.
We discover there are two hymnals, and we both grabbed the wrong one. For the second song, we pick up the right book. The congregation sings with fervor. The kids participate loudly, with a few belting out the choruses, off tune but full of passion.
The minister announces a birthday and we sing, not the traditional birthday song, but an alternate version. There’s also an anniversary. We sing again, using the same tune with slightly different words. The pastor doesn’t ask who has a birthday or anniversary; just as with family, everyone knows important dates.
They use an overhead projector, something I’ve not seen in years. One of the teens operates it, a role he takes seriously. After sharing prayer requests, the pastor prays for his flock and then gives his message.
Afterwards a couple people tell us their story of first coming to this church and how much the people mean to them. They found a family here, just as true church should be.