Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Ferndale

 In Acts 1:8 we read Jesus' command to his disciples to "be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth." I guess you could say the one of those ends is Ferndale, CA. This month, Mindy and I have gone to the furthest north, south and east churches we could find in California. But this week, it wasn't just the furthest west church in California but the furthest west in the contiguous United States.

The pastor greeted us (as he was greeting everyone) on the front steps of the church, and told us he was excited about the morning because there would be a baptism with a great family. Mindy and I hold to believer's baptism, wherein the person being dipped or dunked or in some way made wet knows what they're doing. We had services of dedication for our children rather than baptisms. But there is no denying infant baptisms are fun (and usually boost the morning attendance a bit,).

We had heard good things about the church the night before, after eating at Ferndale Pie Company. Mindy asked the man behind the counter for directions to the church. He told us it was a place his family went to at times, and that his parents always went to the pastor's other church in Fortuna. The pastor, Paul Demant, leads the 9:00 am service in Ferndale and then goes to the 11:00 am service in Fortuna. He also said to stick around for the hearty lunch after church.

The pianist was having fun with the prelude, riffing on hymns and choruses, keeping things lively. As we walked up to the church and again before the service began, we heard the bell in the church tower chime. It chimed again after the first songs; according to the bulletin, this was to let the community know that we were at worship.

The baptism was fun, of course, 'cause babies are cute. It was interesting that the congregation was asked to support the child and her family with a responsive reading using the Apostles' Creed.
The Scripture readings were fishy, in a good way, taken from Jonah 3 and Mark 1. Both were calls to God's people to proclaim his news: Jonah after being thrown up from the sea to the Ninevites and Jesus' call to His new disciples to be fishers of men. This was the topic for the children's sermon, and each child was given a stuffed animal (fish or whale) to remember the Scriptures. I can support this kind of bribery.

The sermon was based on those two texts, a call to evangelism. But the pastor seemed a bit overly concerned about people hating the very idea of evangelism, implying that if people knew the topic they would have skipped church. He assured the congregation that they weren't called to go door to door. He did encourage the congregation to consider two simple forms of outreach. He made available tins for people to fill with cookies to give neighbors. And he encouraged people to invite others to their monthly country/western service.

I appreciated the concrete suggestions, but I think he gave fear of evangelism a bit too much credence. Not everyone needs to be Billy Graham, but there are times all of us can share what God is doing in our lives with those. We can let people know we'll pray for them when they're in trouble. Jesus let His followers know they might face the cross; it's okay for us to let people know they might be called to share their faith. But again, his two suggestions weren't a bad start.

The service continued with communion and then, after the closing hymn, announcements. There were a number of activities offered - men's and women's Bible studies, Bingo, quilting and a Super Bowl party in the fellowship hall. And the guy at the pie shop wasn't wrong about the lunch spread offered after church.

Inviting others to this church wouldn't be an embarrassing thing.

Service length:              1 hour
Sermon length:              18 minutes
Visitor treatment:                      The pastor greeted us before church, and a good many people asked us to the meal after church (at which people were quite friendly).
Our rough count:                       71 people
Probable usher's count:             80 people
Snacks:                                    The potluck brunch mentioned above included chicken, mac & cheese, franks and beans sausage and biscuits, sandwich makings, dessert and more (including coffee upon entering the room). Happy eating.

Songs: "Keep Your Lure in the Water"
            "You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore"
             "Here in this Place"
             "Children of the Heavenly Father"
             "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say"
             "Softly and Tenderly"
             "Onward Christian Soldiers"
Miles to church this week:         196

Total California miles so far: 3,531
-- Dean