Last week we went to a big church, and this week we went to a small church. I guess. Since we were in New York City for our daughter's graduation, we went to Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan along with over a thousand other worshipers. This week we went back to our theme of rural/small town churches, so we were at Harvest Community Church with a few dozen worshipers.
But you can look at it another way. If you consider the population of Crows Landing is about 400 people, and about 50 were in church Sunday...that's about 12 percent of the town's population. If you tried to calculate the percentage of the population of NYC (now at 8.5 million or so) who attended that service at Redeemer, you would have a period and several zeros before you got to other digits. By my calculations, if a church had 12% of the population of NYC attending, you'd have over 100,000 there on a Sunday.
It's probably easier for a church to have an impact on a small town. When we stopped at a market in town and asked for directions, the clerk said, "Oh, yes, they meet down that street in the old Lions lodge by the swimming pool." I doubt if we stopped in a bodega in Manhattan we could count on the clerk having that information.
When we arrived, I noticed several young people standing at the back of the sanctuary and went to chat with them. Connor was older than the others by the wall; he was a graduate of the class of 2014 while the others were still in high school. He told me his family had moved to the area a few years ago from Michigan and started attending the church because they had family there. He hadn't gone to church before but liked Harvest. He said he found "most gospel music slow" but he liked the music in the church. He liked the preaching too, especially Pastor Keith's sermons. I asked him about the college/career group listed in the bulletin. He said that they only gotten a couple of people at the meetings and hadn't been able to convince the females of the age group at the church to attend.
The service was led by an associate pastor, Dan Sinclair, who also works a full time job in software engineering. He led the singing time (choruses on the screen) and preached the sermon.
After some technical difficulties, he played a clip from the NBC show, "A.D. The Bible Continues." The church was using the show as a jumping off point for their sermon series on the book of Acts (as well as watching episodes in small group gatherings). He followed that clip with a map and several current photographs of the location where this piece of the story of Saul-who-became-Paul took place (which Mindy appreciated).
While chatting with people after the service, I was rather surprised to be introduced to the senior pastor, Keith Hood, who had the morning off from preaching. I asked him what he'd done with the morning. He said he had gone to visit the Sunday School classes for children and youth, which meet in a nearby building. He said teachers work with their classes for years in some churches without getting affirmation from the senior pastor. He understood that some pastors don't have the freedom to do such a thing, but he was happy he could.
We talked about the founding of the church back in 1990. He was working as an associate pastor at another church when he decided to plant a church in Crows Landing because it was central to other communities such as Newman and Patterson (most people in the church currently come from surrounding communities rather than Crows Landing proper). The demographic information at the time told him that the community was going to boom. The Bay Area's growth would flow south and east, and there might be two to three hundred thousand people in his area of ministry. But communities passed growth limits, and the economy sputtered, and that growth in the area never happened.
I asked whether changing circumstances had made him to consider moving on, but Pastor Hood said he and his wife had made a commitment to the area for their life of ministry. They'd seen people come and go, sometimes due to people moving and sometimes due to his own mistakes. He'd given up long ago on being the "mega church pastor" he had sometimes envisioned when he came to what he thought was a fast growing community. But he was content to see God raise children in the church into adults, to care for people of the community in loss and celebrate joys.
In my eyes, it seems that Pastor Hood has been faithful with the work God in this place, and he will continue to see God's harvest.
Service Length: 47 minutes
Sermon Length: 26 minutes
Visitor Treatment: warm greetings from various people before worship began, visitor card in chair back (but no collection or mention of them during the service), greeting time during the service
Our Rough Count: 49
Probable Ushers' Count: 50
Musicians: drums and guitar (both men, who also sang), singers (two women)
Songs: Your Love Oh Lord
You are God Alone
Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone
Miles to place: 146
Total California Miles: 8,342