Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Healdsburg Seventh Day Adventist Church

Mindy and I have gone to church the vast majority of Sundays in our lives; so much so that it throws off our mental calendars for the week when we don't go. Prior to last weekend, we had a different challenge to the aforementioned mental calendars: remembering to go to church on Saturday morning.

The Seventh Day Adventist denomination has been meeting on Saturdays for a year plus a century and a half. It's one of their founding beliefs, that Christians should meet on the Sabbath as dictated by one of the Ten Commandments and Jesus' practice on earth. Traditionally, most other Christians meet for worship on Sunday in honor of the Resurrection.

There's something to be said for placing a Scriptural basis over a traditional basis for a practice. Upon entering the church, we were greeted by several people with a handshake and "Happy Sabbath."
We knew before we came (the church's website calendar told us) that this would not be their standard service, but instead was the Christmas program. The sanctuary was quite full and the service opened with the Healdsburg Brass. (When we attended Healdsburg Community Church the Healdsburg Brass often opened Easter services.)

We sang a number of Christmas Carols from the hymnal. I was very happy that among the carols was "Now is Born the Divine Christ Child," a song that I usually hear sung in French. (Really, how many songs refer to an oboe, let alone the musette?)

 The program had "Praise Songs / Holy Land Band" but instead there was piano or guitar accompaniment to carols from the Adventist Hymnal. My guess would be that the Holy Land Band usually leads choruses, but things change at Christmas. Many churches we've attended no longer keep their hymnals out, if they even have them. I shared a hymnal with a couple of little girls whose mother had a seat behind us. We were surrounded by a number of small children which made Mindy and me happy, and Mindy noticed a ziploc bag of activities one family had picked up at the back of the church.

There was a dedication of a baby that apparently came all the way from Australia for the event (accompanied by his parents). His mother had grown up in the church and a large contingent of the family came forward, a number of them also having come from Australia.

A number of children came forward for the "Children's Story" which advocated the virtues of being nice over being naughty. After the main offering, children were sent off to collect dollar bills for the local Adventist schools.

There was no sermon for the morning (which made me a little sad because I was looking forward to hearing my friend and the church's pastor, Dan Martella), the message coming through the Christmas Program performed by the Cloverdale Adventist School, "A Christmas to Believe In." The kids did a great job, pulling off the humor and the music, including several solos. The Church Choir and the Men's Chorus provided some of the music in the program as well. From something the woman sitting next to Mindy mentioned, we got the impression that this group performs a Christmas program at the church each year.

After the program, there were a couple of other special musical numbers, a string quartet and a solo. Much happy socializing took place at the service's conclusion. (Apparently, again according to the church website, on the first Sunday of the month there is a 9 am breakfast, followed by 9:45 Bible Study, worship at 11:00 am and then lunch. So fellowship opportunities would seem plentiful.)

It was a good time of worship and worth the challenge to our daily equilibrium.

Service Length: 1 hour 25 minutes
Christmas program time: 35 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Greeted at the door; no "friendship pad" or other way to register attendance (that we noticed)
Our Rough Count: 200
Probable Ushers' Count: 225
Snacks: none
Songs: What Child is This?
            Now is Born the Divine Christ Child
            Silent Night (five verses)