Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center

I became a Christian at camp.  Serving in youth ministry I've seen quite a number of students make a decision to follow Christ at camp. There is something about the opportunity to be at a different place, surrounded by God's beauty, being able to concentrate on God's ways rather than just the ways of other people. One of my favorite camps, one I've attended as a student and adult camper and brought students to, is Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon holds worship services every summer Sunday, and often the sermon is given by the camp speaker from the previous week. It seems a number of people who live or vacation in the community attend the services regularly, and I'm sure the numbers go up when a Stuart Briscoe or Chuck Swindoll is the speaker. Looking around this past Sunday, the service appeared to be attended largely by seniors, some with (presumably) grandchildren.

This month our theme is worshiping outside, and one might complain that we're cheating a bit with this worship service. Those leading the worship and about two thirds of the worshipers were inside the conference center auditorium. But the glass doors at the back of the building were open, and there are a number of benches outside. That's where we sat, in spite of weather reports predicting the possibility of rain and a few threatening clouds. Mindy and I had agreed we would sit outside even if it meant a soaking. No need for our umbrella, though, as the sky kept its moisture to itself.

Upon arrival we were given a bulletin and a hymnal by a quite friendly volunteer. We saw a number of people greeting one another. The worship team was practicing. People were walking back and forth from the patio area where coffee, water and snacks were available. Kids were waving sticks and playing among the redwood trees.

One of Mindy's weekly tasks is to keep track of the songs sung in the service. She looked at the bulletin and said, "Well, at least this week all the songs are written down so I don't have to keep track." Then a gentleman, Buddy Greene, played the prelude, a medley of hymns on guitar and harmonica. The bulletin said that Dave Talbott was supposed to provide the prelude and he plays the piano. As the service began with the welcome, we were told, "Dave Talbott couldn't make it down the hill this morning, so we'll be following the bulletin loosely." So Mindy still had to keep a musical inventory.

One could use the hymnal for the songs, but there are also screens inside and out with the lyrics. The Scripture readings weren't listed in the bulletin, and Mindy noted that looking them up quickly on her Kindle wasn't easy. I've noticed the percentage of those using their phones for reading the Scripture is rapidly increasing. (I sincerely hope all those folks are using their phones during worship for that purpose.)

Before the offering, there were announcements about the variety of ministries and places the funds would be used. Mount Hermon had just sent a team to conduct the first ever Christian camp in Mainland China. Mount Hermon was teaming with another organization to minister to abused children. Another ministry was to the Vietnamese students in the Bay Area. Finally, they showed a video of their traditional camping ministry to students. High school students in the video shared the things they valued about the Mount Hermon camping experience, "They're not just teaching us, but it's super fun," "You can be crazy while getting to know God," and many mentioned that "Everyone's accepted."  A good case was made for the value of Mt. Hermon's ministry.

The speaker that morning was Mike Romberger, the new President and CEO of the Mount Hermon Association. Every year the Mount Hermon board chooses a theme verse, and every year the President preaches on that verse. This year's verse is Psalm 145:18a (on a banner in the front of the sanctuary), "The Lord is near to all who call on Him."

Romberger started by discussing his family's transition to this new place from their former home in Colorado. He thanked everyone for their prayers and support. He said almost all has been positive (excepting an encounter with the California DMV, of course).

The most moving portion of the message was when he talked about being in that same building a year ago when the former President and CEO, Roger Williams, gave his sermon on that year's theme verse. Williams needed to sit rather than stand because he was in the last stages of his struggle with cancer. That was the last sermon he gave.

Mindy and I were acquaintances of Roger and his wife, Rachel, and greatly respected their ministry. We trust that the good work of Mount Hermon, including their Sunday morning services, will continue for a good time to come. For eternity, really.

Service Length: 1 hour 13 minutes
Sermon Length: 28 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Though there seemed to be regular attenders (like last week), technically everybody attending is a visitor. No special attention paid, and no record kept of visitors' information
Our Rough Count: 112 inside, 49 outside 
Probable Ushers' Count: 175
Snacks: coffee, tea, hot chocolate, ice water, pastries and fake fruit
Musicians: guitar/harmonica (male)
                  piano (male)
                  singer (female)
Songs:  "Come Thou Almighty King"
             "The Lord's Prayer"
             "Lord, I Need You"
             "Like a River Glorious"
             "He is Exalted"
Miles to place:  133
Total California Miles: 10,696
-- Dean