After church last Sunday, I felt compelled to write a note to a church member I know only by the name, "Catherine". For all I know, it's spelled with a "K," but I felt like she was a kindred spirit. Since we share a name, I wrote it with a "C". We were talking a little bit about churches and how long I'd lived here, and when a deacon came up to welcome me, I could have sworn I saw a flicker of annoyance cross her lovely face, as though she wanted to talk with me some more. I felt the same. So I sent her a note, tonight, care of the church, and I hope it reaches her.
Probably the hardest part about this church search of mine, is when I feel a real connection at the church. Sometimes it is the message I hear, sometimes it's a hug from a friend, sometimes it's a sweet new friend sitting behind me. But always, I find that it reminds me of what I am really searching for here.
I'm not looking for glitz or glamour, nor am I looking for a church with seventy-zillion activities for every member of my family. Ultimately, I am looking for connection. I am seeking those reminders that I am connected through faith to a community. I am looking to find a group who will miss me when I am not present, challenge me when I need it, and raise me up on prayers when my heart grows weary. I'm looking for a place where I can do the same for others.
I don't think this is too much to ask. I've found churches before where I would find a small connection, and where I would feel uplifted every time I visited. And then, of course, we'd move. It's one of the aspects to Army life that I find the most difficult. I almost wonder if, subconsciously, I am unwilling to "settle" on a church because I fear that we will move again? I know that's ridiculous, though; God will move me where He wants me, when and how and why He wants me. So I continue to seek the church where He needs me to be.
My visit this week took me to New Beginnings Assembly of God. I had seen this church on my way out of town, though it is quite close to where I live. I looked on the website and yes, the Pastor is indeed as young as he appears in the photo. Catherine told me that he decided one day to learn the guitar, and indeed, there he was with the worship team. One of the first things I noticed upon entering was a man wearing a shirt that said, "Thank God -- I'm not the man I used to be," and that attitude seemed to be present in many of the congregants. There is a feeling of rebuilding in this church, of forgiveness and second chances. People wore everything from jeans to Deacon Brundridge's three-piece suit. Catherine wore tailored pink, but did not seem formal. This is not a formal church, in fact. It is respectful and friendly and upbeat. Three separate people stopped by to make sure I got my mug-- which, I discovered at home, had a few little chocolates inside to sweeten the deal.
There was a whole row of people who held new babies. I'll admit to being sweetly distracted by the one closest to me.
I won't get into the message, as it was offered by their special guest, a missionary from the eastern part of Germany, where she said 59% had never believed in God. She had a rousing story to tell, explaining that we who stay here are the heart, and the missionaries are the arms, doing the work of God. But we are both important. We can't go, so we send, and they win hearts. I didn't feel like she was preachy at all; it wasn't the type of "missionary spiel" I've heard before. I'm still not sure why it's important for an area to have a particular type of church, nor why that would even be the focus, but I liked her stories of taking Jesus' love to the streets where people walked, and talking to people about the God they've never believed in. It seemed to me that she offered a very real hope. She said, "Hell is a place where God is not," and I have to agree.
In my notes, I wrote things like "I like this church," and "Seems every person in here has a story. A light in their eyes, a healing of pain." I didn't write that much, because I was too busy experiencing, soaking it all in.
Dear Catherine, I hope you got my note. I am so glad I got to meet you and I am so glad I visited this wonderful, hopeful church of yours.