Tuesday, May 5, 2015

First Baptist Church, Nevada City

A Piner High School connection led us to visit Nevada City First Baptist Church for our first stop in Rural/Small Town Churches Month. When I asked for church visiting suggestions on Facebook, my old friend Dave suggested we visit his son-in-law's church. ("It's a small world" said a woman we chatted with in the church, "But I wouldn't want to paint it.")

We arrived in town a while before the service time, so we wandered around. There are a number of historical landmarks and buildings dating back to the days of the Gold Rush (and earlier -- the area was once a Maidu village.) Most places were still closed  -- except several coffee places -- but we saw a museum, the county buildings, and the library's used book sale, along with New Age bookstores and a marijuana dispensary. The town is charming but perhaps has a dark side (like Charming, a reference for Sons of Anarchy fans). Next door to the First Baptist Church is a place called "Divine Spark" that serves the homeless (or "houseless", the organization's preferred nomenclature). A large crowd was waiting at the building for grocery bags, clothing, shoes, food for pets, and breakfast. First Baptist also serves the "houseless" of the community with lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays.


We met Dave and his wife Debi outside the church just before the service. The building had been built by a Congregational congregation and was simple but elegant. One of the deacons asked Dave if he'd consider serving as an usher. After we sat down, the same deacon asked Dave if he might be able to serve communion that day because an usher hadn't shown yet (but the other usher made it in time).

After the welcome, the congregation sang happy birthday to Betty, who was later described to us as a sweet, godly woman. This was the first church we visited in a very long time that didn't have a screen in front and the first in a many weeks that used a hymnal (copyright 1989 by an imprint of  Hope Publishing which was founded by Mindy's great grandfather). I'm afraid I tend to sing a little too loud when it's hymns (and a Gaither chorus) from my younger days. Two women led the singing accompanied by a husband and wife team playing piano and a standup bass.

There was a short but lively greeting time. Among the announcements was one for adult Sunday School that had just started, studying the book of Revelation (led by Pastor Roland, who has published a book on the End Times). Their schedule for Sunday School is three months on and one month off. Also, a midweek study on healing is beginning this week. (We had lunch after church with Pastor Roland, and he said that since healing and deliverance were central to the ministry of Jesus, he would like have both become a part of the ministry of First Baptist.)

Communion was served prior to the sermon, though apparently the usual church practice was to serve it after the sermon the first Sunday of the month. Pastor Roland said that they were "tradition breakers" but that it was okay, since there's no prescribed order of service in Scripture.

The sermon was on the first two verses of Romans 12, the urging of the Apostle Paul to sacrifice our bodies in worship and transform our transform our minds into conformity to God's will. It was stated that every day we must present ourselves and everything we have to the Lord's service. Pastor Roland argued that we must transform our minds to no longer conform to the patterns of the world. The example of caterpillars and butterflies was given, suggesting we should perhaps cocoon ourselves in away from the world enclosed with Biblical truth so this transformation can be completed.

The service ended with two more songs, the final one serving as a benediction. Afterward, a number of people went upstairs for coffee and snacks. We were glad to see an electric chair lift on the steep staircase (Mindy had been wondering how some of the elderly members of the congregation were able to get to the upstairs fellowship room, which was also the location for the adult Sunday school class. Betty, whose birthday it was, used the chair to glide up the stairway).

As I mentioned, we went with Pastor Roland and his wife, Andrea, as well as our friends Dave and Debi, to lunch. But we were delayed. Some people who had missed breakfast at Divine Spark came by, and so Pastor Roland offered them food. He went back into the church to find the leftovers from coffee time.

I talked with Dave about the church. He and Debi are able to attend the church they've attended for years in Grass Valley along with this church. He understandably wants to be with his daughter (whom Mindy considers "one of the sweetest people in the world"), his son-in-law and any grandchildren that will make their way in the world. He said he appreciates the family atmosphere in the church. That is something that a megachurch in a large city has great difficulty replicating.

Statistics:
Service Length: 1 hour 8 minutes
Sermon Length: 29 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Two gentlemen stood at the entrance to greet and give bulletins. We were welcomed and asked if we were visiting. Just inside, a man introduced himself as a deacon and asked if we were visiting (he also hugged us). As we waited for the worship service to begin, several people introduced themselves and asked if we were visiting for the first time. During the worship service, there was a lively greeting time, and several others introduced themselves.
Our Rough Count: 40
Probable Ushers' Count: 50
Snacks: coffee, lemonade, water, fruit, pastries and donuts in an upstairs fellowship room after the worship service
Songs: All for Jesus
            Jesus is Lord of All
           There is a Redeemer
           I Surrender All
           Make me a Servant
Miles to place: 164 miles
Total California Miles: 7,794

-- Dean