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Church Shopping: Week 2

My first week in the series: Church Shopping: Week 1

Today I went back to Broadway Presbyterian Church and it was worse than last week.

I had high hopes as I got up and got dressed this morning. I was hoping to see younger faces, hear better music and be filled with great words from the pastor and I was disappointed on every level.

  • Welcome 4. They were still a very welcoming bunch. They introduced themselves and were overall very pleasant.
  • Ease of which to follow 3. Things were a little easier to follow this morning. They had a worship team who led all the songs. They did a pretty good job but most of the songs were out of the leaders range so as a worship goer it was worse. The service I attended last week had probably about 50 people in it. This week we were down to maybe 25. And they all sit on the same side of the sanctuary. When I came in, a new person not knowing this rule, I sat on the wrong side. I was going to be rebellious and sit on that side but when two people came up to me and said that basically I was sitting on the wrong side I decided to move. What would have been better, is if the people that had been attending for awhile decided to conform to the new person. I know that is completely out of our comfort zones but when a new person shows up it is much better to put them at ease than to make them feel weird and out of place. They should have just adjusted to what I was doing, but oh well. There was no offering this morning which I thought was weird and there is no formal acknowledgement or directions that you need to sign the attendance pads. These are little things but when you are new to a church/service, the little things are all that count.
  • Age range and size. I already noted that the size was smaller than their other service. The age range is pretty bad. There were about 5 kids under 10. There were 2 teenagers. There was 1 32 year old (me). I would say there were 4 or 5 in their 40s and 50s and the rest were 60-90. I’m looking to join a church to build community. I mean sure it would be nice to meet and marry but that’s not the goal. The goal is to have somewhere, where I can contribute in some way, where I can meet people in my age range 25-40, and where I can get something. I want the give and take but I want there to be that opportunity. In this church that’s just not a possibility.
  • Music 4. They were playing contemporary music and I knew all but one of the songs we sang. They did not execute it very well and it was obvious that they probably got together that morning for the first time singing the songs but for a small church they did pretty well. I do have to say another annoying thing about the music was that they printed in the bulletin every word for the songs but we didn’t sing it all. For instance, we sang one of my favorite’s this morning, “Hungry” by Kathryn Scott but we only sang about half the song. That was really annoying. I love that song.
  • Sermon 2. I was really hoping the sermon would be good this morning but it, like the rest of the service, fell flat. It was disjointed and really didn’t go anywhere. I felt like he had ADD. It was really disappointing.
  • Overall feel 2. I just don’t feel like this is the church for me. I was hoping it would be but I’m going to have to go church shopping again next week and I don’t know what church I’m going to go to. Any ideas?

There was a bonus this week and that was that they announced that they were going to add two people to the second service that would lead the hymns which I thought was really great. They need that and they recognized the need.

Overall very disappointing and I won’t be returning. Also they are not having the contemporary service for the next 6 weeks. What’s up with that?

Overall score this week: 15/25 60%

It was definitely a fail.

Oh well on to the next….

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Church Shopping: Week 1

Today I went to my first church in Sedalia. I wish that the first church I went to was the church I stuck with but the visit this morning has me doubting that will happen.

So instead of just telling you how it went or what I thought, I thought I would turn it into a Church Shopping  blog series. That way I can continue to update you as I continue to experience churches. Plus I thought this would help me turn disappointing churches into fun blogs to write. There’s nothing worse than sitting down and realizing within minutes that you don’t want to be there. Such an experience happened to me this morning but I said a little prayer and asked God to help me get through the service and out popped this idea for a blog series.

In this series I will name the church, and talk about particular points and ratings for each individual church.

The points will be

  • The welcoming atmosphere
  • Ease of which to follow
  • Age range and size of congregation in attendance
  • Music
  • Sermon
  • And over all feel

There might be bonus points that I go over as well but those could change week to week so there’s no point in bringing them up now.

The ratings will be on a scale of 1-5 (1 being they’re missing the mark, and 5 meaning they’re doing it just right). This is of course a subjective system and is only reliant upon my opinion.  You might be offended by my ratings and if so invite me back to you church and I’ll give it another try.

I decided this morning that each church will get 2 weeks to impress upon me it’s ways. I thought 1 week might be unfair because people have off weeks and so church’s might too because after-all they are made up of people.  Plus if like today’s church they have another service to attend I would like to give that a try. So with that said let’s get down to the first church in the series.

Broadway Presbyterian Church of Sedalia, MO

It must be said that I didn’t really like their website but this church is .6 miles from my apartment so I figured I could walk there on nice days. Today was a cold and windy day but I walked anyway. It was chilly but I made it and I got to see more of the town I now call home.

I went to the 10:30 service and I’m glad I did because their 8:30 service was not actually held today. This might be a good thing to put up on their website. If I had tried to go to that service this week I would have been disappointed.

Anyway, I walked in the church which was actually much harder to do than I thought. The front of the church had doors but they were all closed, probably because of the cold, so I just assumed I couldn’t go in that way. When I walked to the back none of the doors were clearly marked even though that is where there main parking is. I that once in the building it was clearly marked which way was to the sanctuary but I would have preferred a sign outside. My church back home has it clearly marked on the outside of the building which entrance is the main entrance. It is the one under the “Welcome Home” sign.

Let’s get to the points of discussion and rating.

  • Welcome 4. When I speak of “Welcome” I mean were the people welcoming. Yes they were. I had 3 separate people invite me to the after church coffee social that I didn’t want to attend. I had the same 3 people try to find out information about me and to invite me to go the weekly dinner (that I work too late for) and the weekly Women’s Bible Study. Which I thought was really great. The pastor even came up to me when Communion was being done (intinction style) and asked if I wanted him to serve me. But I’ll come back to the that in the bonus. Overall I found the church very welcoming so I gave them a 4.
  • Ease of which to follow 2. When I say, “ease of which to follow” what I mean is can I easily find the entrance, can I easily follow the music, is there an atmosphere in the service’s flow that makes me feel welcome? I have to say that they failed at this. They are a welcoming group but not being able to find the entrance to the church is kind of a big deal. The entrance I did find had me going in through the doors at the front of the sanctuary (ie stage area) so everyone that was already seated got to watch me walk to the back of the sanctuary where I wanted to sit. It was kinda creepy. The bulletin was also not easy to follow or understand so I was at the beginning stumbling quite a bit. And the hymns we sang no clear voice was leading it and the pace for at least the first one was off, so that by the end of the song people were ending on different words. It was so bad I stopped singing. Also when it was time to sing a hymn they gave you no time to find the hymn. I need at least a few seconds to find a hymn please.
  • Age range and size (there’s no rating for this I’ll just give you the range and size). The age range in general terms was 0-90. But that’s not taking into account that they have no 20 somethings, 5 30 somethings including me, and the rest of the congregation fits into the 50-90 range. So not a lot of people in my age range and those that were, were married couples with little kids. The 3 people I had conversations with were in the 60-80 range. Not that there’s anything wrong with an older congregation but let’s get real. I’m young and would like to hang out with people in my age range. Even at my previous church the people I hung out with met the 30-60 range. But there was a range. I need the range. I need people my age in attendance so that I can have a community that has range. The size of the congregation in attendance today was probably 50 people. It’s a small congregation but this is a small town so that is to be expected.
  • Music 3. The choir was good and the instruments that were played were good. But it’s not my style. Their earlier 8:30 service I have been told is contemporary so I will be checking that out next week. I like contemporary music and style because it’s easy to follow and I understand the words and can easily find meaning in the songs. Hymns for me are an older style that I cannot get into because I have to stop and read the words and then find out the meaning of the song. I know hardly any hymns and the way they were played today is definitely not my style. But like I said the choir did a good job and they deserve props for the music that they sang.
  • Sermon 4. I was actually quite surprised by the sermon. I mean the pastor is still wearing robes, and the music was so old I figured I was in for a real snooze fest but he was actually really relate-able and interesting. The sermon was all about being careful and thoughtful when you speak because we cannot take back our words. He told good stories and even though he spoke from the podium he did so without a manuscript which I thought was great. He also pulled out a guitar at the end of the service and played some of the songs with the organ. It was an interesting sound combination but I like that he tried to bring the service some contemporary pieces.
  • Overall Feel 3. I didn’t feel out of place in the service but I did at the beginning have to talk myself out of leaving or even leaving early. I had to convince myself that it would be worthwhile to stick around. I’m glad I stayed for the whole service. I’m not sure I would attend this particular service again but I look forward to giving their contemporary service another try next week.

Bonus: Communion. They had communion today by intinction (dipping the bread into the juice/wine), which with a smaller congregation you can get away with that. The deacons served the meal and then the pastor walked around serving it to the older members who were not able to go the front. Before the whole thing began the pastor mentioned he had a gluten free option which I thought was really cool. I was going to go up but when he came around I noticed that the gluten free option was on a plate right next to the bread! EEK! And that the gluten free option (rice cake) was going to be dipped into the same juice as those with bread! EEK! EEK! I politely declined knowing that God would understand that I’d rather not poison myself today. I thought it was cool that they offered the option but they obviously need some more education about gluten free and how to properly serve it.

Bonus: Cute kid. There was a little girl being baptized today and she screamed through out the whole thing. She even grabbed the pastor’s mic (wire on face) and tried to pull it off. She was cute but her brother was cuter. After the sermon her 3 year old brother kept saying, “All Done.” He said it so much I was beginning to think the same thing. This service should have been “all done” quite a while ago. It was super cute.

All in all it wasn’t too painful but I’m holding judgement until I see what their contemporary service is like.

For today their total score is: 16/25 64%

The Third Day

My church recently finished a study by John Ortberg, Who is this Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. The last week of the study was to talk about Saturday of Holy Week. We often talk a lot about Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday but we often spend little time considering Silent Saturday.

We are so excited about the awesome news of Sunday that we bypass the sadness and anguish of Saturday. I thought this was really poignant in my own life right now. I’m in my Saturday and have been for quite a few months, 4 I think. I got a rejection letter this past week that literally excited me. They let me know how great my experience is and how awesome my resume was but they went with someone else. I was excited to recieve news even though the answer was a resounding, “no.” I’ve had silence and no news for 4 long months, so long that sometimes it feels like 5. I’ve read 47 books in that amount of time and watched too many TV series and knitted the beginnings of a lot of blankets. My Saturday is filled with moments of silence and moments of crying out and moments of fear. My Saturday is the Silent Saturday and all the anguish that goes a long with that.

Being fired was my Friday. My Saturday has been all this time of trying to find something and I am on my knees praying that my Sunday will come, that I will be lifted from the pain and be welcomed back into the work force.

We all have these times in our lives where something happens or the absence of something is our Friday-Sunday. Don’t dismiss the importance of your Saturday because Silent Saturday makes us even more excited for Resurrection Sunday.

What are you third day stories? Did your Sunday come quick or will it be a long hard battle to see your Sunday?

Comment below if you would like to share your third day stories with me.

Jesus’ Healing Culture

I googled “Jesus’ Healing Culture” this morning and found an article which was truly interesting: 37 New Testament Miracles of Jesus Christ.

It lists in a chart all the healing that Jesus did in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What is most interesting is what stories are repeated in the top three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). The number is pretty interesting as well. 37 stories of healing in the New Testament.

Two or three and you might think it is fluke but 37, that’s a substantial number. Substantial enough to make me believe that Jesus’ healing culture continues today.

I’ve seen this healing first hand.

In my ministry with women who have been sexually abused, I’ve seen women believe in themselves. I’ve seen strength come from nowhere. I’ve seen courage to continue blossom in women. I’ve seen women come out of their shells and begin to live anew.

During my CPE internship I saw a lot of death. I saw death in the ER when the EMTs had worked on the person on the scene and then they had worked on them all the way to the hospital and then the ER staff had worked on them and the person was declared dead in the ER. I brought several family members to visit a dead loved one over several hours.

I saw death in the ICU when a young man had flipped his car and was declared dead in the ER but then someone heard a heartbeat. I’ve seen the ICU crew bring this man back 3 times and I’ve been praying with the family and praying that God’s will be done and let this young man go when the family was still fighting for him to live.

I saw death on other floors as well.

I also saw unbelievable miracles. A man rear-ended by a SEMI walked a way from the accident. A woman whose car was under a SEMI walked away with minor injuries. A man who had a stroke was talking with me and praying with me later that evening. I’ve seen people walk away from horrible accidents and people die for no reason.

I have always believed that healing comes in many forms including death. Death is not the miracle that we are all hoping for but sometimes it is the answer that we receive.

Sometimes the answer that we really don’t want to hear is “No.” All of our prayers are answered. Sometimes, albeit infrequent times, we receive the answer that we want to hear, “Yes.” But we have to realize that the answer of a no is still an answer.

This has been a rough year/Christmas season for me and mine. My Grandma Summers died this summer. She was battling cancer and decided that she’d rather be with Jesus. I don’t blame her but I miss her. I miss her laugh and sarcasm and whit. I miss her cookies, even though this year I would not have been able to eat them ;). I asked for healing and got an answer. I asked for more time and got an answer. God healed her but I did not have any more time with her.

My Grandma Shirley went into a home this year. Her body and mannerisms are still here but her mind is gone. I asked God for healing and for a miracle. I asked God for more time. I received answers but did not get the ones I wanted.

This Christmas is really sad. My two Grandmothers, whom I loved dearly and they loved me, will not call this Christmas morning to see how my Christmas was. Grandma Shirley did send a check but it made it a little sadder. She would have done that if she was with it and the fact that my aunt sent it in her stead reminded me that all is not as it was a few years ago.

Jesus heals. I’ve seen him heal in ways that I like and I’ve seen him heal in ways that I do not like.

With the ministry that I do, I must believe that God heals and that God does the work, otherwise my ministry would be pointless. I’ve seen it first hand and so I continue to do the work. And I continue to pray for the outcomes I want, at the same time knowing that sometimes the answer is not one I was hoping for.

Antioch Park at Sunset

Father’s Day for the Fatherless

I was reading a book today titled Fields of the Fatherless, I was hoping it would be an interesting read. I was hoping it would shed some light on the fatherless but it really didn’t provide me with anything I didn’t already know. It would be a good book for someone who is just beginning to understand that we should be compassionate to the fatherless.
I found this book to be filled with duh statements. One of the first I read was when the author said that he was visiting an orphanage and was surprised at how clingy the children at the orphanage were. This was a duh statement for me because it makes sense. When you go to Africa do not the starving children ask for food? So to do children without love ask for it. They demand it, because they know that they need it.

Tomorrow it will be Father’s day and I have been blessed with a great dad. I have a great relationship with him that has flourished over the years. My dad had to learn how to be a dad because his own dad was absent. How did he learn how to do that? Did he learn it from his mom? I don’t know how he learned to be a great dad, I just know that he is a great dad.

But I know loads of people that are fatherless. Their father may be absent. Their father may be dead. Their father may have abandoned them. Their father may be distant. Their father may be too broken to realize that they have alienated their children. So how do the fatherless celebrate Father’s Day?

I know some people who have estranged relationships with their fathers that will be calling to say hello. I know some people that won’t even make the call. I know some people that will be visiting graves or spending a few moments in silence, in remembrance of those who have died.

How do the fatherless celebrate Father’s Day? One of the churches that I went to in Pasadena suggested that those who were not Father’s should be celebrated because they were “spiritual fathers.” From my understanding, a spiritual father is someone who shepherds someone through their faith. They are a mentor and friend of sorts with the addition of making sure to point out when they feel that you are doing wrong.

So that takes care of the men who are not father’s but what about the children without father’s? Do we even consider them on this day? Do we even stop for a moment and think about how hard it is for them? About how hard it is for them to not have that special bond with someone?

They do not know, nor do they understand the story of the Prodigal Son. They do not know that joy that the father experienced. They do not understand how someone could love someone after they behaved so badly.

That’s what a father’s love is all about right? No matter how many times I mess up or get myself into trouble I know that my father loves me.

This is sometimes easiest to see on the faces of new dads. The look they have when looking down at their child is one of pure love and pure devotion and pure protection. They would do anything for their son or daughter. So when does this pure love, devotion and protection go away?

Are some men born without it? Do some men just ignore it? What happens? Where does the devotion go?

The fatherless are sad to me. We have always celebrated Father’s day in my house. I found it interesting because my father had an absent father and my mother’s dad died when she was young. Neither my mother or father had fathers when they were growing up and yet they worked hard to give their children what they never had.

We always go out to lunch on Father’s day and tomorrow will be no different. I’m already planning out my pain management for tomorrow so that I can be present to help celebrate Father’s Day with my dad but I know that many of my friends and loved ones won’t be celebrating anyone tomorrow.

And it breaks my heart.

So what can we do on Father’s Day for the Fatherless? A professor once told me to never make a challenge to a congregation or group of people that I wasn’t willing to do myself. So this challenge is not to you alone. It’s to me too.

What can we do for the Fatherless on Father’s Day? I’m not fatherless so I don’t have all the answers but here are some ideas I have been thinking about:

1. A few moments of silence to recognize the Fathers that aren’t with us.

2. Adoption. Take someone who is fatherless with you for the day. Adopt them into your family not only for Father’s Day but adopt them to become part of your family. If there is a divorced family in your church or community and you know that the father is never around then invite the kid over for Sunday dinners once a week or once a month and then on Father’s day include the mom and the kid in your celebrations. If there is an adult in your midst who has an absent father do the same. Invite him or her to become part of your family and nurture them.

3…What are your ideas? How can we help the Fatherless?

I know God is the father to all of us including the Fatherless but we all need earthly fathers as well. How can we help the fatherless not feel so fatherless?

Shiny Leaves or Real Fruit

I was reading a devotion today in Voices of the Faithful: Inspiring stories of courage from Christians serving around the world compiled by Kim P. Davis with introductions by Beth Moore. I bought the devotion at a Women of Faith Conference many moons ago. I had heard Beth Moore speak and I liked the way that she lived by her calling. She was/is called to work with women only and she doesn’t apologize for it. I like that strength of character.

So anyway, a while ago I was doing that series on God’s Faithfulness and I haven’t quite finished it yet but I will continue to write on that series I just want it to be more natural and not as forced.

Anyway I picked up this devotion merely for the title. It is a devotion throughout the year so I turned to today’s date to see what it had to say and I was surprised by the gem I found there.

The verse for the day was about harvest and the author went into what harvest means and how that relates to the work of ministry. What interested me was the exposition on Mark 11:13-14 and how from far away the fig tree looked good. Its leaves were shiny or showy but it didn’t produce any fruit. Then the author went on to ask a piercing question, “Are we abiding in Christ to produce real fruit, or are we producing showy leaves?” (128).

This question applies to both our own personal walk as well as what the church does. Do our programs produce shiny leaves or do they produce real fruit? Does size matter more than content?

Do we read controversial topics without real depth for our personal walk? Do we instead choose to focus on something that matters for us, that will in the end bring us closer to God?

Are we shiny or do we produce real fruit?

God’s Faithfulness #4

It’s funny how difficult this process of thinking about how God is faithful has been. It’s a process of going through the difficult times in my life and trying to remember how God came through.

If you haven’t read #1, #2, and #3 be sure to check them out.

#4 happened last summer.

4. Internships at the last second. In my degree program I needed 2 internships and both internships were gifts.

My first internship I wrangled for myself. One of my good friends, Stacey, was on staff at a pretty cool church in the area. I visited the church a few times and I liked it. It wasn’t close to what I was used to in the Presbyterian church but I liked that. I liked how free it was.

I emailed the pastor on staff with a plan and asked him if he would let me come on as an intern. I had grand plans and was able to part of them. We met a few times before he finally gave me the go ahead and then at my first staff meeting the pastor, the only pastor, mentioned that he was leaving.

I felt completely screwed. I mean you have to have a supervisor for an internship and he was going to be leaving halfway into the 1st quarter of a 3 quarter internship. But I wasn’t as screwed as I thought.

He had me get a woman pastor that would mentor me and I found someone that was willing to work with me. So she was already a go and I talked to Field Ed and they said as long as someone at the church would be my supervisor I would be good to go.

The church wanted to help me. They saw me as screwed but stepped up to help me out. Megan stepped forward and I met with her once every couple of weeks and she mentored me along with my supervisor off site.

The church and God stepped up to help me out. God was faithful in that situation and I was able to meet with two amazing women and learn about how to have a group and I developed good skills I will take with me.

My second internship was with Gwen, my supervisor off site for my 1st internship. She was amazing. I asked the first church if I could do my internship there but they had vision I could not see and let me go. I felt screwed but I have come to see it as a blessing. They mentored me as much as they possibly could but Gwen and her church could offer me so much more.

Gwen offered me an offer I could not refuse:  9 months internship and the opportunity to do ministry in a church that already had a healing language and program.

I learned so much in both of my internships and I got them both as I felt the hammer was dropping on me. So today my question to God is: am I low enough? Have I suffered enough that you will now save me? Or is there more pain to come?

God teaches us lessons and he saves us in his own time but I just wonder how much more the house has to burn down, the water has to fill the car, and the lightening has to strike?

I’m being overly dramatic, I do realize that. I’m just wondering how much more muck there will be to walk through before he rescues me.

I’m trying to remember the point of all of this: to remember times when God has been faithful. God has been faithful in my past and I need to stop focusing on how hard it was and instead focus on how he came through. That is the point of all of this.

It’s been a rough day. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier. Until then I’ll try to hold on to the memory of when he was faithful: Internships at the last second, Food on the table, Surgery when needed, and God held my heart until I could.

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