A new church home.

Photo from http://www.sedcob.org/Jackson%20Park.htm site.

I was writing yesterday about our fantastic weekend we all had together as a family. I wanted to talk quite a bit about the church we went to, but it ended up being a book practically, and the post was already long enough. So I decided to make it a post all on its own.

We were out late Saturday night playing games at a friends' house and associating with adults - something we don't get to do very often (and ironically we act like kids when we get together!) Fortunately, we did not have to get up too terribly early for church. We were going to a new one and just wanted to attend worship service to see if we liked it and it felt right. Service started at 11am and the church is actually about 40 minutes away in another town. We got up between 8 and 9 and were out the door by 10. Not too bad. The reason we decided to try a new church in a town that far away is due to a difference in background between my husband and myself, and also with some disillusionment I have found lately. I was raised Independent Southern Baptist in a small backwoods church that was basically run by two families that lived in the holler. It was small, but friendly, but they didn't have any real youth group and as I got a little older, I just didn't like being there very much. When I was in highschool, I started going to the Independent Fundamental Baptist church several of my friends attended, and I went there til I went to college. The college town was mostly Presbyterian and I didn't know anyone to go to church with, so I didn't go at all.
Christopher was born in Indiana and grew up in Michigan in a family that was all members of the Church of the Brethren. In fact his father's line were almost all missionaries and ministers for the church. However, he became disillusioned with his home church as a teen as well and when they moved to Tennessee when his mother remarried, they could not find a Church of the Brethren near home or one that they didn't think was full of "some scary people". So, by the time he and I married, neither of us was attending church even though we'd both been going since we were born until adult (more or less).

I've tried getting him to attend different churches with me and the girls, but I didn't feel comfortable going to one that wasn't baptist. It was all I knew. The last one I went to, we attended over a year, and he went twice with me. By the time I stopped going, I had realized it was not a lot more than a fashion show for most of the congregation, and my Sunday School class sat and gossiped for at least 3/4 of the class time. I enjoyed being there at first, but eventually, I realized it wasn't the place for me, and I didn't want my kids getting into the same rut the rest of them had. So for the last couple of years, I have allowed my kids to go to churches with friends and two of them ride the church bus on Wed nights to a local church. It's actually Pentecostal. At least they were getting some exposure to different ideas, yet all still focused on Jesus. I felt that was important since I was so afraid to try anything new myself after being raised only in a Baptist church.

The last couple of weeks here have been pretty hard ones on us financially and stress-related. We'll get through it, but it's been a rough one. I found myself praying a lot more and felt something tugging at me. That small voice was tickling my ear and I knew it. I found myself drawn to a Christian home making blog I'd accidentally come across. It wasn't one I would have usually stopped to read over, but I felt that tugging again. Something that kept coming back to me in my reading that blog and also in the Bible was the role of the woman (such as in Titus 2 and 1Timothy 2, and certainly Proverbs 31) and of the man being the head of the household. Also, several times through the week, things kept making me see how I had not compromised like I should have and I was becoming grumpier and meaner. I knew I needed to get back into church, but this time it was going to be ALL of us. I knew I needed to find a Church of the Brethren.

There is not a single Church of the Brethren (COB) in this town. We're not a tiny place either. We are a much bigger place than a lot of the small towns in this part of Tennessee. The problem is the COB is basically a northern church. I'm sure it would be just as hard to find a Southern Baptist church in Michigan. So, in my search online I found three. Two of them were very small churches in the middle of nowhere that reminded me of the church I grew up in.. run by a local family and not catering to outsiders and no kids. The other one however, looked perfect. I had prayed that God would show me the right one, and the choice could not have been made any clearer unless it had been the ONLY COB in 100 miles. It was 40 minutes away, but it was in the downtown area of Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee and it's a GORGEOUS place. Driving through there reminds me of watching old reruns of Gunsmoke. Very vintage pioneer looking. Everything about the look and feel of the church (on it's one page website anyway) was inviting. More importantly, when I asked Christopher to go with us there, he agreed.

When we drove up there, we were right on time, not too early or too late. I was a little worried at first because it looked like the only parking lot had 5 parking places, but as we drove around, we found that the parking lot next door for the school offices was used for church parking as well. As we were walking up the back steps to the main entrance, someone hollered at us that they were holding church downstairs today. Seems they are replacing the carpeting in the sanctuary, so we were going to be sitting on folding chairs in the small room downstairs. The whole congregation.. of maybe 30 people? Maybe not even that many, maybe more. Hard to tell. I did comment to Chris that the choir of the last church I had attended had more people than this whole service. I liked it already. I especially liked that most of the women were dressed in very comfy looking clothes: capris, sandals, etc. The men were in casual clothes, some of the younger ones were in cargo shorts and flip flops. YES! Oh I don't mind dressing up, and I feel it does honor the Lord when we do, but I like knowing that others agree with me that your outward appearance does not have anything to do with your relationship with Jesus. People in shorts and a tshirt can witness and minister to someone in need just as well or even better than someone in a suit or dress.

The associate pastor greeted us right away and seemed absolutely overjoyed to have us there and got us an extra chair for Zoe. He kept apologizing for not being upstairs. I think that it was all in God's plan actually. Because we were down there in the makeshift chapel, we were able to concentrate on the people and the pastor and the message, not the carpet, pews, curtains, etc. It was all falling into place. Then the church secretary came over. She reminded me so much of Christopher's grandmother. She was so sweet and friendly and asked us to sign the registry because she just couldn't remember names like she used to. Haha, I do well to remember my kids' names! The senior pastor came over as well. He's nice, older and quite soft spoken. Reminded me a lot of Christopher's family. They're all Brethren ministers too - even the grandmothers (on his dad's side) - and they're all very soft spoken and gentle people. The associate pastor did the service since the senior pastor had been out of town and taking care of his ailing wife. He's more energetic and loud and enthusiastic. Christopher did mention once he'd take some getting used to.

When it was all said and done, Chris signed us into the book and we said goodbye and told them how much we enjoyed being there. When we were in the van driving home, we all discussed the difference in Baptist and Brethren and how they're both protestant Christians, with just a few minor differences. The girls all enjoyed it, even though they just sat there the whole time. (They did have a small children's church time where they took the kids up front if they wanted to go and he taught them something special and talked to them personally for a few minutes. Zoe loved it!)

The best part was how Christopher said it brought back so many good memories and how he would be willing to go back. YES!!!!! I must have silently thanked Jesus 500 times on the way home. He even said it was too bad we both work on Wednesday nights so we can't take the girls to the youth group classes. I guess they can keep riding the local church bus on Wed nights, but it would be awesome if we could all go twice a week to the new church. Actually Chris can only go every other Sunday since he works every other Sunday. If Chris could start getting some Wed nights off work, I might just switch one of my nights off for Wed. I'd lose my Fri and Sat off together, but if it means going to Wed night services with my husband, then it's totally worth it.