I was nervous. Butterflies-in-the-stomach nervous.
In Kansas, when I was invited to a 99%-Black Pentecostal Revival church by someone I didn't know well (when I had been raised very quietly Southern Baptist), I wasn't this nervous.
That's okay. I reminded myself that I've walked alone into other nerve-wracking situations and with less information than I had today. It would be okay.
I wanted to start off this year with high energy, and there was one church here I had heard was very rowdy and loud and definitely energetic.
Destiny World Outreach. They started building this church not that long after we moved here, and the building is simply beautiful. I giggled a bit when the sign went up, because they were advertising their Starbucks in the cafe. Starbucks isn't quite what I look for in a church, I'll admit.
|For more photos, click this.|
This is a large church, with three Sunday services (I was told that the 11 am services was PACKED but that my choice, the 1 pm service, was much more casual). I'm honestly not sure if this church fits in any denomination.
People wore everything from jeans to more formal Sunday-best suits. The choir and band wore "I love DWOC" t-shirts and nice jeans, but I don't know if that was typical. Other photos show the choir in more traditional dressy suits.
I felt very welcomed. People were friendly and helpful. When it came time to "reach out and say hello," several people came up and said hello, even though I was a stranger to them. At the end of service, I received a (wonderful) cookie, a chance to sign up for further information about the church and about receiving Jesus as my Savior, and a coupon for a free tall black coffee. (Really.) The service lasted two hours, but it didn't seem that long.
Today was their annual Freedom Sunday Celebration, in honor of Independence Day this week, and they worked hard to pull on every patriotic heartstring in the place. They presented colors with a very professional color guard, sang the National Anthem and "I'm Proud to Be an American," and had small children recite the Pledge of Allegiance. There was even a group of wonderful dancers wearing red, white and blue. But... We didn't pray until after all the singing and celebrating, and that seemed somehow off to me. Perhaps I missed something, and perhaps this isn't typical.
The main thing I noticed about this church was that these services are polished production events. The music, the dance, the words of our forefathers and the graphics on the huge screens-- perfectly timed, wonderfully orchestrated, and professionally crafted. I was vastly entertained, and that was before the minister ever stood to talk to us.
Our sermon was by a guest pastor, who apparently visits DWOC quite often as the congregation seemed quite pleased to see him. They welcomed his new bride with clapping and happy shouts. Leo Price was our guest, and his sermon was about fighting for our freedom, and how blessed we are as a country. He spoke about praying for our country, that we may continue to be free.
There was a call to pray and/or be saved at the end of the service. Many people went forward amidst great clapping and rejoicing. Some appeared to receive tremendous comfort at the front of the sanctuary.
The verse that seemed to sum up the day was Galations 5:1-- It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
He read a little bit from We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. I couldn't find the actual quote that he read, but I found several that referred to how their only family was each other, how they fought not because their country ordered them to but for each other.
So, what did I leave with? And would I return?
I left with a feeling of welcome. Of fierce patriotism and love for God and country. I haven't felt my heartstrings or my soul stirred that much in a long time, and it was the perfect beginning of this journey. I definitely felt God there, despite the late prayers. These people love God and want to serve Him, and that is so evident and strong a sensation. All ages, races and backgrounds appear welcome.
However, I wouldn't go back. This is where my own personal history comes in. This church is LOUD. Not just joyful and singing out and shouting praise-- I enjoy that. But the sanctuary is rock-concert loud. I would fear for my hearing if I returned every Sunday. I wondered where the noise level would fit on a hearing-loss scale, and when I left I needed quiet in the car so I could regain my sense of balance. I think there is a point at which volume becomes dangerous, and I hope someone does a bit of testing of their amplifiers and speakers.
I especially liked it when Pastor Price read the last verse of the Star Spangled Banner--
"O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"