Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Faith Christian Fellowship Church, Walnut Creek (Christian Reformed Church)

When word got out that a western green mamba would be appearing in the Sunday morning service, serpent handlers from all over the state made their way to the place. Sure, the rattlers were there along with the asps, but nothing would bring Luke 10:19 ("Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy...") alive like highly venomous Dendroapsis angusticeps!

All right, we didn't actually go to a snake handling church this past Sunday.  We went to a very nice church, Faith Christian Fellowship. This month we're visiting churches of denominations we haven't visited before, and FCF is a part of the Christian Reformed Church. We hadn't written about any Reformed churches, so there we were. It seemed to be a heathy church, and it was a nice service. I'll write a little more about it shortly. But first I'd like to address a challenge we face writing these posts week by week.

There's a famous quote from Leo Tolstoy from Anna Karenina, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Churches are something like that. Many happy worship services are alike, and it's a challenge to find new ways to write about them. My nephew told me recently, "I like to read when there's something wrong with the church, when there's not it's a snooze."

So that's one side of things. On the other side of things is we love the Church. We think most people would be better off going to a good church. Our preference is to find good churches doing unique things that we can herald. We're not looking to seek out the next Westboro Baptist or Jim Jones death cult.

We'll continue to visit what we hope are good churches, and we'll try to write about them honestly. We'll try to highlight what's interesting and unique about them. And if boomslangs or any other venomous snake make an appearance, we'll pass that along. But I'd rather avoid them.

Anyway, here are five observations about Faith Christian Fellowship Church in Walnut Creek:

1) The Reformed Church's history in America goes back to Dutch immigrants. I talked to one gentleman in the church who said when he started coming seven years ago he thought he'd have to change his name to De Groot or Van Keppel to fit in. But the church has changed, and we observed an ethnic mix in the church that reflected the local population.

2) The people were genuinely friendly, greeting us when we entered and during the greeting time. There are places this doesn't happen, so we appreciate it when it does.

3) The church's pastor was on vacation, but I appreciated that Graham Seel, a member of the congregation who spoke in his place, sought to present things in unique ways. Presenting the blessing and curses from Deuteronomy 28, he had us stand as if we were facing Mount Gerizim and then Mount Ebal. I appreciate efforts made to involve the congregation.

4) During the pastoral prayer, people were given the opportunity to say the names of people in need (and they did).
5) A box of Kleenex was at the end of every row. This is something every church should do.

Not the stuff of headlines, I admit. But that's okay if they're living out their statement of faith, "Called to equip each other to know God, love others and serve the world". What makes for good blogging and good living is not always the same thing. And that's okay.
-- Dean

Service Length: 1 hour 11 minutes        
Sermon Length: 32 minutes
Visitor Treatment: We were warmly greeted by at least four people, including greeters near each entrance. We'd read that visitors were encouraged to get a gift at the information table, and when we mentioned that we were first time visitors, we were given a cold drink glass (with lid and straw, but no water yet) containing a welcome note and a pen. Even though we were already clutching the glasses, several other people asked if we were first time visitors. We were also greeted by folks in neighboring pews during the greeting time. Guests were asked to fill out a bulletin tear-off sheet and deposit them in a box in the lobby. Finding the box took some searching.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 70
Probable Ushers' Count: 100
Snacks: coffee, decaf, tea, lemonade, cookies and pastries in the courtyard between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall.
Musicians: piano (woman)
                  acoustic guitar (man)
                  electric bass (man)
                 drums (man)
                 vocalists (two men, two women)
Songs: Doxology
            Your Everlasting Love
            Everlasting God
            Come Thou Fount
            Trust and Obey
            Step by Step
Miles to place: 71
Total California Miles: 10,962