Today I visited a small church group that meets in a room in a school. I visited as guest pastor. I arrived exactly when the service was supposed to start, because I had not paid close attention to a small detail on the instructions. I was led to the room (some kind of a music room, judging by the symbols decorating it) and sat down. This did not give me good opportunity to ‘read’ the situation as I arrived. What I did notice and found fascinating was that besides the middle aged and older people in “sensible” semi-above-casual clothes, there were a few teenagers, one in the full goth look. Dark black long hair, full-length black coat with various vivid red symbols painted on it, some looked like chinese characters. I never got the chance to take a closer look or to try conversation with that group. This person was with two others, one was carrying a baby. So it made for an interesting contrast and step out of the ordinary right away.
Even though I was there just on time, the service did not get going for another 10 minutes. One person led the service. A piano led the music. There were several projected litanies to start. The feel was nice and relaxed, a bit interactive. There was no amplification and this made for a more intimate and interpersonal feel to the situation. I am realizing as I write that arriving like I did had me missing many details. For instance, I have no real idea how many people were in that room, I just never attended to that detail, even when I was preaching. When I sat, I sat at the front, and it would have been a bit obvious to turn and count. I’m going to guess it was around 40 people. I knew beforehand there would be a significant number of teachers, and when I asked for a show of hands there were about 7. This Sunday, just like last, there was another pastor in the congregation who was on vacation.
A lady spoke after I did about her family’s mission work in Africa.
There was coffee after the service, and there I had two facinating conversations with retired men who have a passion for ongoing Kingdom work. Both of them have a passion for mission education. One was a retired businessman who in retirement is getting himself theolgocally educated, the other a retired educator. That kind of conversation I could do all day.
Saturday I assisted a lady in putting on a training workshop on enfolding the marginalized and handicapped into a church setting. She had heard a few of my experiences and asked me to share them. It was an educational time of sharing back and forth. Boy, parents of less-able-to be like everyone else expects children have a real hardship, and the church has a real opportunity to be a haven and a resting place for them, but I learned again that I don’t fully understand as a pastor how best to do that and how often the church’s approach actually causes more hardship than relief. Much learning and work remains to be done.
Next week, if all goes well, I will have a report on my first experience at a small church in Washington state that I am working on an agreement with to be their interim pastor. I am not sure how I will blog that yet. It may take a day or two before I get to a computer or an internet connection and can post my experiences. There are many uncertain things about this situation yet, for instance, whether I can get a work permit, and other technical details. I’m looking forward to it if it works out.