Tuesday, January 6, 2015

First Baptist Church, Dorris

NORTH

Our plan this month is to go to churches at the far points of the compass, and this last weekend the compass pointed north. We didn't go "North by Northwest" as in the Hitchcock film or just "North" as in the Rob Reiner film that Roger Ebert wrote he "hated, hated, hated." No, we went northeast-- to the small town of Dorris, just below the Oregon border.

Coming out of the Christmas season, images of the North are fresh in mind; especially the North Pole populated by Santa, reindeer, elves, etc. We were pleased that there was, in fact, snow in the mountains and along the road to conform to that northern imagery.

I was curious about the imagery of "North" in Scripture, and discovered that though it is often used as a direction (as one would expect from historical stories of battles and travels), I discovered that it doesn't have a consistently positive or negative connotation. In Job 37: 22 we find "out of the north comes golden splendor, around God is awesome majesty." In Isaiah 14:31, however, "smoke comes from the north," and it's not a good thing. Of course, when the nation of Israel was divided, Judah became the Southern Kingdom. Israel was the Northern Kingdom and the first to fall.

As far north as we could go, ecclesiastically, within the state, we came upon the First Baptist Church of Dorris. We mentioned to the pastor before the service the reasoning (such as it was) that brought us there, and he (and, in another conversation, his wife) was quick to point out that their congregation was actually part of their denomination's Northwest District, located in Oregon. But the church was still south of the California border, which is what mattered to us.

The sermon that morning was taken from I Timothy chapter 3 that begins with a discussion of the people of the last days. The pastor pointed out that we were now in "the future" of the Back to the Future films, wherein Marty McFly travels from 1985 to the hovercraft-filled time of 2015. I, at times, felt a sense of time travel in the service, but back in time to when I attended the Wikiup Evangelical Free Church in the 1970's.

At the beginning of the service, there was a time to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries as we did at WEFC back in the day, with the honoree putting money in a special offering box in the front, followed by a chorus of "Happy Birthday"(with a bonus recited blessing from the whole congregation). Many of the songs (led by the pastor's wife and accompanied by piano) were songs we sang when I was a kid, such as "Victory in Jesus" and "Wonderful Words of Life." There was a sense of family in the small congregation like that I'd felt as a child in my Free Church days.

Before the service, during the service greeting time and after the service, many people welcomed us warmly. We also saw the regulars greeting each other happily, with particular attention paid to the young children (who departed after a few songs to their class). The bulletin included a word search to occupy kids while they were in the service, but most of the kids we saw looked a bit young for word puzzles.

We noticed drums in the front of the sanctuary, which went unused throughout the service. We don't know if there is a worship band in the 6:00 pm service, the Wednesday evening service, or in the Spanish language service that meets there on Sunday afternoons, but during our service the only musical accompaniment besides the piano was recorded musical tracks to accompany a couple of choruses. The choruses were printed on the back of the bulletin, while the other songs were sung from one of the two hymnals on the back of the pews.

During the service a couple of different congregants -- possibly both were deacons -- were called on to pray. The pastor was the only Scripture reader. The sermon was a solid encouragement to read and follow God's Word in the New Year, buttressed by a testimony from a couple who has a ministry of giving out Bibles to the homeless.

Mindy and I were made to feel quite at home in the far north this Sunday morning.

Statistics:
Service length:                        58 minutes
Sermon length:                       23 minutes
Visitor treatment:                    There were no visitor's cards or other means to register our attendance. Visitors were not acknowledged in any special way during the service. But we were greeted by many before, during and after the worship service.
Our Rough Count:                  34
Probable Usher's Count:         40
Snacks:   No sign of 'em, but we don't know if coffee and/or treats were part of the earlier Sunday School hour (we think there were at least two adult classes).

Songs:
"Victory in Jesus"
"Brethren, We Have Met to Worship"
"Wonderful Words of Life"
"We Have Heard the Joyful Sound"
"Ancient Words"
"Above All"
"Have You Been to Calvary"
Miles Travelled to Dorris:       312
Total California Miles so far:  624

-- Dean