We broke a couple of our self-established rules last Sunday in visiting The Redeemed Life Church. We'd planned to go to the church of a different old youth group member, but that wasn't to be this time (you're in our prayers Joan and Kim, Jim, Dave and Isaac).
One of the goals of this blog is to experience churches as first time visitors. We'd like to help churches realize what they look like when they visit a church for the first time. And we'd like to encourage people to have the boldness to visit churches themselves.
But we've been to this church a number of times before. Attendees at this church include former youth group (and Anti-Youth Group) members Jordan Johnson and John Grandberg (though work precluded John from being there Sunday).
We also usually prefer to remain observers in a service (yes, we always sing along, but we usually don't want to say anything in the service). But in a home meeting like this, pretty much everyone interacts in some way.
The scheduled starting time for church is 10:30 am, but some people arrived late, and there was a good deal of chatting and catching up, so the service proper started about 11:00. One of the church members, Brent Hitman, opened the service with Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around." He played guitar and Jordan played drum box. (I want to make it clear that in spite of the use of this apocalyptic song, the church is not an APOCALYPIC DEATH CULT! I was given permission though, by the Towners, to use phrases like "Apocalyptic Death Cult" since it might increase our page views.)
After the opening songs, there was a time of sharing praise and prayers. Todd and Heather praised God for getting them through a hike the day before that proved much more harrowing, and much longer, than they expected. (Todd referred to the hike frequently in his sermon.) People shared needs for health and housing, and we prayed for those needs.
There was more singing, then Todd asked for a volunteer to read Genesis 33 (the story of Jacob's return to his brother Esau). I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure Todd chuckled at the word, "Succoth", which anyone with a bit of junior high spirit would do as well. In the sermon time, they've been working through the book of Genesis. Todd usually shares, but Jordan and others do on occasion. No one in the church has formal theological training or ordination. (Well, Todd and Jordan have both received online ordinations to officiate at weddings, but that's not exactly Harvard Divinity.)
Todd's message from Scripture for the morning was that, just as this passage includes many rather mundane details of life, we can trust that God will be with us as we work through the mundane details of our lives.
The closing song was "May the Lord" with lyrics printed on the song sheet. This apparently is an ongoing dispute between Brent and Todd. Todd would like to end services with a yretsyM gnoS (Mystery Song) to surprise people at the end of the service. Brent likes the lyrics to be there for people, and he is the one leading the songs. This week, Brent got his way.
People chatted for a while after the service was over. The women set out to plan a get together for themselves; since it had been quite a while since a shower (wedding or baby) had been necessary. Kids finished playing or working on art projects in the living room, where they hang out during the worship service, with easy access to parents in the other room. (We used that time to ask Jordan a few questions about his church experiences, and then we stuck around and chatted).
We love the people of this church, so it's always a pleasure to get together with them, even if it involves breaking our little rules.
Service Length: 1 hour 5 minutes
Sermon Length: 19 minutes
Visitor Treatment: no particular recognition of visitors
Our Exact Count: 19, including children and latecomers
Probable Ushers' Count: no ushers, no count
Snacks: one family brought warm banana oatmeal chocolate chip muffins, coffee (etc) was available in the kitchen
Songs: The Man Comes Around, Empty Me, Hungry, I'll Fly Away, 'Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Psalm 121, May the Lord
Miles to place: 4 miles
Total California Miles: 6,070