Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We go to church back east

Trinity Baptist Church, Clarkston, Washington
You could say that today’s post was years in the making.

Back in 2014, as we started this blog, we were figuring out how to pick a church, whether or not we should mention our project as we talked to people in a church, whether we’d kill each other after being cooped up in the car hours on end….There were a lot of questions. We decided to practice visiting churches in 2015, starting in January by going to the furthest North, South, East, and West churches we could find in the state. It meant a lot of driving and a lot of hours in the car every weekend.

We survived and enjoyed the process. We did a lot more driving during 2015, and during 2016, we made it to churches in all 50 states. It made sense to us that now, since we live in a different state and plan to finish up our weekly church visits at the end of the year, we should go to the furthest North, South, East, and West churches in our new home state (especially since we barely scratched one corner of the state in 2016). This week, we started by going east.

On Saturday afternoon, we left Seattle and headed to Clarkston. It was getting late, and we didn’t trust the back roads Google maps recommended, so we chose an alternate route. It sent us through Lewiston, Idaho, just after dark, then over the Snake River back into Washington. We found a Motel 6 on Bridge Street in Clarkston, a couple blocks from the border, and settled in so that in the morning we could visit what we figured (through our incredibly scientific reckoning) is the most easterly church in Washington state, Trinity Baptist Church.

Dean and Mindy go east: Trinity Baptist Church, Clarkston, Washington
When we told Gloria, a woman in the church, we came to the church because it was the furthest east, she laughed and said, “It’s also the best.” Gloria was one of several people who greeted us as we entered Trinity Baptist Church. It’s not a large congregation, and we were conspicuously visitors.

When I shook hands with Pastor Doran Williams he asked if I’d phoned the night before. I had, to check the service times, and he recognized “Dean” from the caller I.D. We gave him our card, and he also welcomed us from the front during the service.

A common complaint about worship services, particularly contemporary services, from elderly church attenders is that there’s too much standing during the singing. This was not the case at Trinity Baptist. The musicians were all seated as they led the singing, and the congregation was seated most of the time. (People stood when we began singing “I Stand in Awe of You,” because, well, you’d feel silly if you didn’t. They also stood for the reading of the Scripture.) Tom, one of the guitar players in the worship team, performed special music, “Life’s Railway to Heaven,” a gospel number that Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash (and many others) recorded.

Pastor Doran began his message with a very unusual request for the congregation, “Those of you who have been praying for your pastor to lose weight… Please stop it!” It was a lighthearted approach to something very serious. He’s battling Myelodysplastic syndromes, a bone marrow disorder. Chemo has resulted in a loss of appetite and a loss of weight. In a conversation after the service, he mentioned his disease to explain his need to wear a surgical mask before and after the service (his white blood cell count has suffered). He has also written a little about his struggle with illness in his blog posts. He noted that pastors are not exempt from hardship, but that, like all believers, they can trust God will be present throughout trials (citing Isaiah 43: 2 & 3).

I’m guessing Pastor Doran has been working through the book of Colossians, because this Sunday he spoke on the second half of the third chapter, “The Successful Christian Family.” He used examples from his own family growing up, discussing the discipline he received from his parents (he and his brother would sneak out during nap times, and his mother would track them down and give him a “whippin’” on the way home.) as well as examples from his own parenting experiences (when his son had a friend pierce his ear -- which soon became infected). He pointed out that though it’s strange for us to see slavery mentioned in this passage about families, in that day slaves were often a part of the household. (He also noted that slavery during that time was much different than the more cruel form slavery took in American history: “read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”)

I appreciated that he noted that though this passage talked about husbands and wives, the passage still had things to teach us about living in relationship with others in the family of Christ whether we’re married or not (I get a little irritated when preachers assume that everyone is part of a two parent, two child family, with a dog and a cat and a white picket fence.).

I was able to talk to a couple of folks about what they appreciated about Trinity Baptist Church. Gloria said she appreciated Pastor Doren’s preaching, “I have learned so much from him.”

Pastor Doren said he appreciated that Trinity Baptist was a “caring community,” noting the “love people have for one another.” I asked him about strengths of the church, but he volunteered a weakness, “there aren’t enough young people.” We did notice several teens in attendance.

The church seemed to be doing a good job of caring for the people who were there. They did a good job welcoming us, visitors from the Wild West. We’re looking forward to seeing what the other points of the compass in Washington have in store for us this month.

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