Who doesn't love potlucks? They're an all-American tradition, but theoretically even Communists would be pro-potluck because they're about sharing resources. (Some people do have potluck pet peeves. Some people get annoyed when they see Jell-O placed in the salad section. There are regional disputes about whether certain entrees should be called "casseroles" or "hot dishes." And Mindy, as a pastor's kid, has traumatic childhood memories of being told to wait until everyone else had a turn, so she never got any Kentucky Fried Chicken.) So it shouldn't be too surprising that when we asked our friend Danita about cherished memories of growing up at Concord Bible Church, she mentioned, "Potlucks. And Vacation Bible School." She added, "Times we'd all be eating, not the church services, but when we'd all be together."
We met Danita when I worked at Concord Bible Church as a youth pastor. When we came to the church she was about three years old (her older brothers were eventually in the youth group while I served there, but I left before she was old enough). Danita also attended the kindergarten through 8th grade school on the property. "Since I was there all the time, I felt like I owned the place." It was the only church she ever attended before going off to college at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
A big draw in moving to West Virginia was to be with her cousin, Robin, who had moved to the state from California a few years before. Danita had visited Robin most summers while she was in high school, and she'd always felt drawn to the place. Six months after Danita moved to West Virginia, her cousin moved away. Her blood relation was gone.
Turns out though, Danita was not without family. Whenever Danita came to West Virginia she'd attended Robin's church. After her cousin moved away, people from the church kept checking in on Danita, and they'd come to visit her. One family in particular adopted Danita, inviting her to spend weekends away from the dorm into their home. Carrie and Kevin and their small children made Danita a part of the family. I met Carrie. Though Danita suggested Carrie was a second mother to her, Carrie insisted she was a sister.
Others at Fellowship Bible Church acted as family as well. When Danita moved out of the dorm, other women at college who also attended Fellowship Bible Church became her roommates. When those roommates moved on, an older woman in the church asked Danita to move into her farmhouse. Danita lived in Margaret's house for four years, helping her out in lieu of rent. Danita had graduated and become a school teacher, and she was able to save money to buy a house.
I asked Danita what she liked about Fellowship Bible Church when she moved out here a little over a decade ago. She said she liked that it wasn't drastically different than Concord Bible Church, though it was bigger. When she started attending, there were about 200 people in the single worship service, which seemed huge to her. (The church now has three services, each service with more in attendance than Concord Bible Church back in the day.) But there were still gatherings with food. "At the picnics there was so much food!" she said.
She also appreciated the spiritual feeding she received at Fellowship. The church motto is "Touching Lives With Scripture." From the beginning, Danita appreciated the teaching of Senior Pastor Van Marsceau and his expositional preaching.*
This past Sunday, we attended the third service of the morning, Pastor Van was preaching on Matthew 14 and the feeding of the 5,000 (plus women and children, as he noted). He also cited the telling of the story in the other Gospels. It was a good sermon with helpful application. Danita had expressed appreciation for Pastor Van sticking to close to Scripture while still making things practical.
During the prayer time early in the service, there was mention of famine in Malawi. Pastor Van said he had taken five trips to Malawi and was saddened by the news. But he said he was sure there was still worship in the church that day and celebration of the hope of Heaven.
We appreciated the mini-orchestra which accompanied the hymns. Apparently, since there are three services, there is a different assortment in every service. Sometimes more violins and less flutes or vice versa, depending on who shows up. I did love having the opportunity to meet Jared (Jarrod? I didn't ask) with his electronic standup bass, which was very cool.
A surrogate family wasn't all that Danita gained at Fellowship Bible Church. Several years ago, she noticed a young man at church, JaRon Puller. She hoped for opportunities to talk with him, but he didn't seem interested. Until he was.
Danita and JaRon were married last year, and they are expecting a child late this summer. Danita found a surrogate family with her brothers and sisters in Christ at Fellowship Bible Church, and through that fellowship, she also found her literal family there.
Service Length: 1 hour 23 minutes
Sermon Length: 33 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Danita introduced us to many people; visitors were encouraged in the bulletin and during the announcements to fill out a visitors' card (which also had space for prayer requests and other information) and put it in the offering basket.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 180 people
Probable Ushers' Count: 200
Snacks: coffee, decaf, hot water for teaMusicians: keyboards (man), piano (woman), flutes (3 women), trombone (man), electric upright bass (man), upright bass (man), violins (man and woman), percussion (man), cello (man)
Songs: "A Mighty Fortress is our God" (orchestra)
"Victory in Jesus"
"How Deep the Father's Love for us"
"Beneath the Cross of Jesus" (orchestra)
"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (orchestra)
"And can it be"
Miles to church: 15
Miles from start: 12,821
Total 2016 Miles: 12,564
Church website: http://www.fellowshipwv.org/
*Expositional preaching is the practice of working through a book of Scripture rather than a topical or liturgical sermon schedule.