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Visiting Churches

A Glimpse into the Future (Visiting Church #15)

Sunday we visited our third United Methodist Church. I enjoyed all three, even though this one’s in sharp contrast to the other two. Based on our experience, it’s an anomaly for their denomination.

I consider them an “outlier congregation,” a group unlike the norm, one that may be an enigma to their denominational leadership.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Their website says we “will find a laid back coffee house atmosphere” with “an unconventional setting where a blend of people…can gather and feel at home.” The website is correct.

The building was formerly a corporate headquarters, so it’s laid out like a business, not a church, but it works nicely anyway. With seating for about 150, it’s spacious and smartly decorated.

Three videos are used during the service: one to start it, one to preview the message, and one during a time of healing prayer.

Having people come forward for prayer is a welcomed first on our journey. There’re two prayer teams and plenty of takers, with this portion of the service lasting several minutes. They anoint people with oil and pray for them, but they don’t publically share their needs or the prayers.

The music provides a comforting background, with hugs of gratitude as the typical response. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m glad to witness it.

As an “outlier congregation” this church parallels church #8, “A Bold Experiment.” These churches may be the result of their respective denominations’ attempts to move into the future or merely the reluctant willingness of leadership to allow them to try something new.

Regardless, they advance God’s kingdom.

Will they be a short-lived experiment or a glimpse into the future? I hope and pray it is the latter.

[Read about Church #14 and Church #16, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #15.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

A Patriotic Day (Visiting Church #12)

Next on our list is another United Methodist Church. Their website has a helpful “what to expect” section. Described as “a quaint, country church,” visitors may “come as you are.” The facility reminds me of the Methodist church we visited three weeks ago, as do the age of the attendees and the service style.

The children’s message has a patriotic theme about flags. We say the pledge to the American flag and then to the Christian flag.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

For the offering they don’t pass the plates across the rows; it’s up to givers to get their donations to the ushers who walk up and down the aisles. The minister receives the collection, turns to the cross, and lifts up the donations, symbolically presenting then to God.

Then she prays. I like her reverent style.

The patriotic theme continues with a message about the US Constitution. “Do you have a religious constitution?” “What does it cover?” She suggests several possibilities, concluding with the question, “Have you ratified your constitution?”

Communion follows, open to all. The minister lifts the bread and then the juice to God, presents them to the congregation, and prays over the elements. We go up by row to partake as the congregation sings. The server hands us the bread and we dip it into the juice.

We sing “God Bless America” to conclude the service.

Refreshments follow; many people encourage us to stay. We gladly do, enjoying the chance to meet others.

The minister introduces herself. Today she’s wearing a simple, yet elegant white robe, something she reserves for special occasions. She says they have different service styles throughout the month, with varying instrumentation and song selection.

To fully experience their worship, we’ll need to come back the next four weeks.

We leave this Methodist Church well fed, both spiritually and physically.

[Read about Church #11 and Church #13, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #12.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Methodists Know How to Cook (Visiting Church #9)

This Sunday we visit a United Methodist church with two traditional services. We go to the second and I’m expectant for what I will learn.

Two greeters hand out nametags to the regulars; they offer us welcome stickers and we write our names. The nametags are a first in our 52 churches journey, an appreciated gesture. The sanctuary, with a white décor, is cube-like in shape, seating about 120.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Up front is a large, backlit cross. A colorful banner to the right proclaims, “Catch the Spirit.”

The pastor is away and another is filling in for her. There’s also a farewell potluck for their departing organist/pianist. Several people invite us to stay. With an air of pride, they say, “Methodists know how to cook.”

After ceremonial lighting of two candles, a layperson opens the service with a short liturgy, Bible reading, and acknowledgment of the week’s birthdays and anniversaries.

Although most of the eighty or so people present reside in the senior citizen demographic, six kids hear a children’s message from a hand puppet and its partner. There’s no choir today, but there is a guest soloist. We also sing several hymns, using two different hymnals.

The congregation stands as the minister reads Mark 1:14-20. Her sermon is “Come, Let’s Go Fishing.” She smartly compares fishing for fish with fishing for people, which is what Jesus invited his followers to do.

After the sermon we sing a closing number, the candles are extinguished, and we move to the fellowship hall to eat.

The food is ample and delicious. I eat too much. Sharing a meal is a great way to form a community and get to know people. The potluck did that for us today. I’m not sure if all Methodists know how to cook, but this congregation sure does.

[Read about Church #8 and Church #10, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #9.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.