This morning I visited a church in the neighbourhood. My only connection was that I’d met the pastor a couple of times and it was clear in those meetings we shared some common interests.
The fourth person I saw once I was inside was… Elvis! I wondered what I was in for! Later in the service when he went up to sing a gospel song I found out he’d been baptized there a few weeks earlier.
I found a seat and watched as the worship space filled up with a wide variety of people. The wise and the young, the discerning and the old, residents of the world, of Canada and of the Tri-Cities gathered. The feel to start off was one of of a chaotic friendliness, a reunion. The look and spirit was that of ordinary saints plopping down together to see what God would bring.
I worried when the first song began. It had a distinct country twang to it, and a couple of the musicians seemed to be really into that, but none were wearing boots and hats, so I did not leave. Country is not my culture. The stories of heartbreak reflected in country music may be my life, but I can’t relate well to that expression. Having seen Elvis, you can imagine that by now I was really wondering… and then I started to attend to the words of the country flavoured song, words of welcome, words of family coming together out of sin into God’s presence, and a worship sense began to get traction.
And so I worshipped with this group, arriving as a visitor, a stranger. We witnessed a couple being baptized, and heard of the journey that brought them to that point of public commitment. We received communion together. And we spent time in thankfulness, with opportunity given for people to stand and speak their gratitude to God out loud. There was a lot of heartfelt gratitude expressed, for God’s work in lives, for God’s work through a congregation’s caring and prayer, for God’s work through a pastor, through leaders, through small groups. True worship. People speaking of brokeness past and present, and of God’s working in and through and around and despite that brokenness. That’s what I heard, and I was one with the congregation in that thankfulness. I arrived a stranger, I left feeling connected to the people through having worshipped God together.