Monday, May 21, 2012

Church in the South:Back to our roots

I am just returning from a mini-vacation in North Carolina with my best friend seeing her brother and her family. It reminded me of how much I love the South. This is always surprising to me because I am such a liberal Yankee. While on vacation I always try to go to church. I have to say I was worried about the southern stereo types coming into play. Even though general conference proved to me that there are many awesome exceptions to these stereotypes I was still quite nervous. I did look up several reconciling congregations, however since we were at my friend’s brother’s house and he would be driving me (they drive pretty expensive cars, so I was a-okay with not driving myself) I wanted to go to one that was convenient.  Still being pretty fresh off of general conference and with North Carolina’s recent marriage vote I was a little nervous as to what I would find. Yet, not going to church was simply not an option. Church is where I connect with God best and being someone who needs to work on spiritual discipline I need to go to church.
Not, surprisingly I am always in evaluation mode when I attend a church. I always think ‘would this ever be my church home if I were to live here.’ I am not sure that this church would be a church home for me, but I would at least take a second look. They definitely had some work to do on greeting visitors and making them feel welcome. Other than the greater at the door and the passing of the peace I don’t think one person said hello and no one asked my name or why I was there. Not that I want someone to fall all over me but, I thought they could do better.
While, not likely that if I were to move to the Raleigh area I would make this church my church home I was glad I was there. I definitely saw God at work in these folks. It was discipleship Sunday. The whole service was laity lead. Each person shared scripture and their experiences in adult Sunday School. This church offers all of the Disciple classes and a variety of other book and Bible studies. While the language took a little while to get use to ( a lot of father God and Christ our lord and savior) these persons shared heartfelt stories. These classes had clearly touched their hearts and souls. Every person up there beamed, as they spoke about gaining a deeper sense of the scripture, budding friendships, the fellowship and especially the growth in their relationship to God.  This is exactly what you want to happen in these classes.
It was not what I was expected from my Sunday worship experience, it was certainly welcome. To use a Wesley expression, I felt my heart strangely warmed. This is  the Church at work. This is how church is supposed to be, these persons felt nurtured and fulfilled. They had been given the space and take the opportunity to listens to the calls and nudges of God to develop understanding of their relationship to God and one another. In my last post I passionately wrote about my desire to stay in the United Methodist Church and this moment was one of those reminders why.  While it was not entirely clear the theological and doctrinal stances of this church (my assumption is a little right of moderate) it was clear their commitment to growing further in love with God and developing strong relationships with each other. It was clear that a curriculum used heavily with in the Methodist church, and the idea of class meetings had provided that space for them.  I was happy. I was happy know that I had a shared connection to them in our history. I was happy that while no one spoke to me directly, there was a space for me to worship in this community. There was an excitement stirred in me to see laity take on the role of leading worship and sharing the transformative power of God at work within the Church.

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