Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Covenant Church, West Lafayette, Indiana

Covenant Church, Evangelical Presbyterian, West Lafayette, Indiana
Covenant Church, West Lafayette
“I hate Sundays!”

My sister-in-law Jennifer Woodard (Mindy’s sister) says that’s how she felt for years. It’s not how she feels now. It’s not how she felt early in life. But for a number of years, that’s how she felt.

Jennifer’s father (and Mindy’s, for that matter) was a Presbyterian pastor (he’s now retired), and her earliest church memories are from the church her father pastored in East Cleveland. Her very earliest memory is of a church secretary yelling at her for running in the halls. Her other memories of church were generally more pleasant.

Jennifer's first memories of church were in this building,
which was Historic First Presbyterian Church of East Cleveland
She liked the choir and organ music, and she especially liked hearing her dad speaking from the pulpit. She attended nursery school at the church, and their house, the manse, was next door to the church building, so school and church and home memories all flowed together. She remembers drawing angels on the bulletin during church services because that seemed an acceptable artistic expression in the setting. The sanctuary expressed a sense of majesty. She does remember complaining to her father about the length of his prayers, but overall, she liked church.

1400 Tulip Drive, Indianapolis (home)
She liked church even better after their family moved to Indianapolis. The secretaries didn’t yell at her; they thought she was an adorable little girl. She loved Sunday School and Children’s Church. At that church, Southport Presbyterian, she received Jesus as Lord. She remembers hearing that if someone reads their horoscopes they’re hell bound, but a person can trust in Jesus and go to Heaven. She was 8 years old at the time, so she doesn’t claim to have a perfect remembrance of the teaching, but she’s confident God made her His child at that time.

1427 Southview Drive, Indianapolis (church)
She loved the camp program. She loved the devotional books she was given to help her read the Bible. She loved the visits from missionaries and the guest speakers. She loved the youth ministry and the mentoring she received. She lived next door to the church in Indianapolis as she’d lived next door to the church in East Cleveland, and she’d practice piano in the church chapel. Home and church continued to blend together in her memories, heart, and mind. Her roots were planted deep in the family of Southport Presbyterian.

Then Jennifer went Wheaton College near Chicago. It’s a Christian school, so through the week she had spiritual and Biblical input in classes and in chapels. She went to different churches during those four years, often wherever her roommate was going. On Sundays, more than any other day of the week, she was homesick. She thinks now that perhaps she didn’t want to commit to a church because it seemed disloyal to her home church -- which was tied up with her pastor father and her actual home.

Jennifer and her husband Mike were married shortly after she graduated from college. They lived in Anderson, Indiana, where Mike worked, and it was here that Jennifer hated Sundays. “I didn’t like church. I was very critical.” They visited a number of churches, but weren’t satisfied.

Jennifer remembers being offended by several men from a local church who came to their apartment after Jennifer and Mike visited the church. “In our living room, a man asked me, ‘If you died today, do you know where you’d be?’” Jennifer admits pride was part of the reason she took offense. After all, she was a pastor’s daughter from a good church and had graduated from a Christian college. What really bothered her, though, was that they hadn’t taken the time to know her and to learn that she was indeed a Christian.

She was much more impressed when a woman from another church just offered to take her blueberry picking. Mike and Jennifer eventually found a Methodist Church they were satisfied with, but after just a few years they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

There, they discovered Peninsula Bible Church, pastored (at the time) by Ray Stedman and Ron Ritchie. They found the teaching of the church to be incredibly rich and deep. Mike also listened to Chuck Swindoll’s sermons during his half hour drives to and from work. This was a time of great learning and growth for both of them. One drawback to the church was the difficulty in being involved in a small group, since everyone in the group lived in different geographical areas. Getting to a meeting an hour and a half away was quite difficult, especially after their first two children were born.  

Again, Mike’s vocation called for a move, and the family returned to Indiana. This time they lived in West Lafayette, where they began attending Covenant Presbyterian Church. It wasn’t long before they became part of a small group. Some people have come and gone in that small group, but the Woodards and another family, the Johnsons, have been together for twenty-three years now.

At one time there was discussion in the church of limiting the life of a small group to two years. Mike argued against that because he felt it was important to stay with the people who had been together in highs and lows through the years. So their group kept together (the newbies joined ten years ago). MIke said that as a more introverted person, he wouldn’t want to share with a everyone in a church of hundreds, but he can share with a group of ten to twelve.

Covenant has also proved to be a place Jennifer and Mike have been able to serve in a variety of areas: music, youth, and leadership. They are currently teaching a Sunday School class using materials from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We were able to sit in on the first class of the nine week session. Financial woes are a leading cause of marital strife, and many of us make foolish financial decisions that limit our abilities to do the things we dream of doing. In a culture where, as Ramsey says, “We buy stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like,” it’s good that the church can offer people Biblical financial advice.

We were also able to attend a worship service at Covenant. (You might notice that the church is no longer Covenant Presbyterian.  The church was a part of the PCUSA, but now is a part of the EPA. The PCUSA required the church to drop ‘Presbyterian’ from the signage. I’d think more  room on the signs would be a bonus.)

There was a very good orchestra that accompanied the choir as we opened with a song based on Beethoven's Ode to Joy. I must admit, well done Ludwig Van makes me very happy. The choir’s anthem was an adaptation of John Wesley’s “And Can It Be?” -- probably my favorite hymn.

And the sermon was very good. Senior Pastor David Henderson spoke from I Corinthians 1 on the “foolishness” of the Cross. He contrasted the teaching of Ayn Rand to that of Jim Elliot along with noting a Machiavellian illustration from E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View, so he certainly expected his congregation to be knowledgeable. (Reasonable in a college town like this.)

I think I can safely say that Jennifer doesn’t hate Sundays anymore. (And knowing Jennifer, I think she’s even okay with Mondays. And the rest of the week.)

Service Length: 1 hour 16 minutes
Sermon Length: 36 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Visitors were welcomed twice during the service and invited to stop by the Connection Center to fill out a connection card and receive a gift. We got the connection card before the first worship service and filled it out (along with the attendance pad in the pew). Both when we picked up and when we dropped off the card at the Connection Center, the attendant greeted us, but didn’t offer any additional information beyond where to leave the connection card.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none email Wednesday morning from the church's Community Life assistant on behalf of the Community Life Pastor thanking us for "having chosen to visit or become part of" the church family and inviting us to learn more about Covenant at an informal luncheon with Pastor Dave Henderson, and mentioning a few other events as well.
Our Rough Count: 285
Probable Ushers' Count: 300
Snacks: donut holes and coffee cake, several flavors of coffee, decaf, hot water for tea, ice water, lemonade, orange drink, and iced tea.
Musicians: Orchestra of about 30 people
Choir (about 20 women, 13 men)
Keyboard (woman)
Piano (man)
Vocals (2 men and 2 women)
Acoustic guitar (man)
Electric guitar (2 men)
Drums (man)
Saxophone (man)
Songs: “Alleluia, Alleluia”
“O Praise the Name”
“In Christ Alone”
“Because He Lives (Amen)”
“And Can it Be?” (offertory by choir)
“Jesus Paid it All”
Miles to church: 8
Miles from start: 36,753
Total 2016 Miles: 36,457

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