Sitting in the café across the street, eyeing people as they walked through the open doors of the building I had passed 1000 times before, I could feel a little bit of anxiety building up in my chest and sneaking its way up my throat. Why was I so nervous? It’s just Church. I used to go to Church all the time. It’s not like I was going into a stranger’s house.
Or was it? Church is, after all, the Lord’s house. But was He really a stranger? Aside from the random wedding, baptism, funeral or Holiday service I had not been a regular Churchgoer since 1986. I became a confirmed Catholic in 1984, and slowly began to pull away from the Church after that. Call it teenage rebellion or just plain apathy, I decided at the time there was no place for it. That is not to say I didn’t maintain an open channel to God (you can read my previous blog to get the lowdown on that.) However, I have decided that at this point in my life that channel needs to be a two-way tributary; I want to make more room in my life to give my spiritual beliefs room to grow. I don’t want the Lord to be a stranger to me anymore.
So on a blustery yet sunny Sunday morning I took a deep breath, gathered my belongings, threw my half-consumed latte into the bin and made my way across the street and through the open doors, feeling very much like I used to feel on the first day of school. A myriad of thoughts circled in my head: Will they like me? Will I make any friends? Will I know what to do?
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I saw was kind of cool: smiling people milling about in the lobby, welcoming folks into the Service, shaking hands and freely giving hugs. A young woman welcomed me and handed me a pamphlet, which I perused after taking my seat in the last row. Although I was game, I was still timid.
Hmm…haven’t I seen that on the side of a Metro bus?
I looked up just in time to see the band take the stage. They took up the entire stage.
Wait…where’s the altar? Where’s the pulpit? I’m so confused.
Downbeat happened at about 9:05. Yes, downbeat. Was I at Church or the Crocodile?
More confusion set in but I just decided to roll with it.
Attendees stood up en masse to join in on the festivities; yes, it was like a party was happening right there. No pomp and circumstance, no procession down the aisle, no smell of incense wafting in the air. Some sang along; others reached their hands up towards the ceiling in prayer. From my position on the aisle in the back row, I could see a petite Asian woman in the front, about my Mom’s age, in a purple outfit topped with sparkles; arms extended upwards dancing along to the beat. I smiled. She was so….free.
About the third song in, a youngish guy in a car-length wool coat, with a hoodie and blue jeans underneath took the stage and introduced himself as the Campus Pastor. The music never stopped, but he invited the crowd to take the opportunity to introduce themselves to each other and welcome visitors into the Church. The woman next to me smiled and extended her hand, as did her husband. The gentleman across the aisle stepped over and shook my hand as well. I took a deep breath and started to relax.
The music continued…these were not traditional Hymns or prayers. These were foot stomping, dance-worthy pop songs. My confusion subsided as I started to take everything in and just accept the fact that my idea of Church to this point, was not in play. This was different. Most different was the fact this Church building was just one of three that were networked together. The officiating Pastor was actually in another town, but his sermon was broadcast to our location. He, at least, was not wearing a hoodie.
His sermon was fascinating. He preached about Luke 19:1-10; Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House. I’ve read this before, but what I never had the benefit of was someone teaching me what it meant to me. This is something I believe a lot of people struggle with, regardless of denomination. How does the Bible apply to us in our modern-day lives? Sitting there, listening to the Pastor speak poetically to the story and its current application was probably the singlemost enlightening moment I have had on this journey thus far. It was enough to make me want to be there, and more importantly make me want to return there.
When the service was over, I looked at the clock and astonished at how much time had passed – it was already 10:30AM. As I walked out of the building an hour and a half after entering, a smile crept across my face for I knew I would be back again very soon.