Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Shelter Covenant Church -- Concord

Shelter Covenant Church has a couple of roommates. They share a building in downtown Concord with Vineyard Church and Lighthouse Regional Church, two other fellowships that also happen to have symbolic nouns for names. All three churches also share membership with a number of other Diablo Valley churches in the organization "Church without Shoes" that holds occasional joint services and unites in ministries to the community.

The building where the three churches meet was once a porn theater -- which shows again that God makes all things new and better. Lighthouse meets Saturday evenings, and Vineyard meets in the building on Sunday mornings. We attended the Sunday evening service, which is Shelter's main worship service.

We visited Shelter because for the last 17 years it's been the home church of our friend, Beth, who was one of our youth group students during our years at Concord Bible Church.  We arrived early, and Beth was quite excited by the snack choices, particularly the pretzels stuffed with cappuccino chocolate. She introduced us to a number of people including some of the staff.

The service started a couple of minutes after 5:00 pm. The worship team consisted of two acoustic guitars, an electric bass and drums.  We sang some familiar choruses and a gospel song. There was a reading of a confessional prayer. According to the web site, in addition to Scripture readings, there are regular readings of a variety of creeds and prayers from church antiquity, which may have been the case with this prayer, but it wasn't credited to anyone.

One of the pastors then led a time of "popcorn" praise, asking the congregation to share in a sentence some life giving experience God had given them in the last week. He then took time discussing the tribulation Christians in the Middle East are now facing at the hands of ISIS. He encouraged everyone in the congregation to set their phones or watches to an alarm just before bedtime (morning in the Middle East) to remind us to pray for our Christian family facing torture and death. He did get me to set my alarm and pray.

The guest speaker, a Quaker who has a ministry focusing on forgiveness, will be doing a forgiveness seminar at the church in a couple of weeks. He used Matthew 18, the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, as his text, emphasizing the good and important point that we need to forgive for our own good, for the sake of our relationship with God and our spiritual health. But he wouldn't get into how to forgive. He said he'd happened on the secret of forgiveness 15 years ago and he was saving that secret for the upcoming seminar.

I had problems with one of the last choruses written by someone in the church. It seemed a bit of a twist on Lennon's "Imagine" saying that eventually religion and faith would be no more. Since Paul said in I Corinthians 13 says that the three things that will last are "faith, hope and love" -- well, those lyrics just didn't work for me.

I did appreciate the time of open communion, a weekly part of the service. During a time of singing and praise, people can go forward for communion when they choose. They may also go to the side of the church and pray with designated prayer partners or go to the back of the church to give in the tithe box or light a candle.

Beth said she was feeling emotional throughout the service. This was "her" church and being newly married, she and her husband believe they need to find a church that is "their" church. This is a transition I've seen many new couples deal with.  I trust that God will continue to use Shelter as "His" church.

-- Dean
Service Length:  1 hour 30 minutes
Sermon Length:  34 minutes
Visitor Treatment:  there was a greeting time during the service, and Beth introduced us to a number of people who greeted us warmly. I think there were visitor cards on a table in the lobby, but I forgot to check
Our Rough Count:  53
Probable Ushers' Count:  75
Snacks:  filled pretzels, coffee, tea, cookies and bottled water on tables in the lobby as we entered
Songs:  Lord I Need You
             Song of Hope
             How He Loves
             Take Your Burden to the Lord
             The Wonderful Cross
             You are so Good to Me
             All Things Good Again
Miles to place:  75 
Total California Miles:  4835