Greg and I have had the privilege lately of visiting churches on Sunday mornings here in the Pacific Northwest. We have been open to trying other denominations and have listened and taken everything in with no judgement or bias (well…maybe a little bias) and have appreciated things new and unfamiliar to us.
In our search we have met some really wonderful people, seen and heard some great music and teaching ministries. The most impressive have been the people in these different denominations. Deep down inside I’m forced to admit, that I expected people who didn’t think and believe exactly like me to be unfriendly, hostile, pushy and illiterate, lacking depth and reasoning skills. Pretty dumb. But the teachings of childhood are hard to shake and once we get a preconceived idea in our head – it is very hard to change it.
As Greg and I have journeyed through our denomination and seen many changes happening in the music, it has been both good and bad for us. Good in that our kids really enjoyed the progressive trend toward all things modern and new and bad for us in that some of it is just too much the same, some too hard to follow, some too loud etc. We are somewhere between modern and 20 years ago – and to be honest the music of 15 years ago still suits us best. Take away choir and orchestra music of our denomination and you’re left with just a worship band with not much variety.
So we have explored music of the more traditional denominations that we thought we would NEVER be interested in. The Presbyterian and Methodist being among our favorite choices so far – for their depth of teaching, variety of music and beauty of the service. I was never familiar with a more liturgical service (thought it was only in the Catholic church) had been to a Lutheran service once or twice where my Dad is the organist and was convinced that it was not for me. But there is a beauty to the order and planning of every scripture reading – hymn chosen and scripture song sung for the message.
Nothing can compare to the pipe organ and huge choir at 1st Presbyterian Church in Bellevue. The pastor is very interesting, uses humor and deep teaching to make his points clear – and honestly, it’s the best music in “church” I’ve ever heard.
But proximity is very important if hoping to become involved – and we are a couple of miles from Fairwood Community United Methodist Church where I visited yesterday. I’ve always been curious because this is the lovely little church that I rent twice a year to have my recitals with my students. I’m not sure what I expected – but it was certainly different (in a good way) than what I thought it would be. The people were so friendly – had two people engage with me (I was late) before I even got into the sanctuary while standing in the foyer while the choir and teenagers being confirmed were on the platform singing an opening number. They treated me like I was already one of them. Then I found my seat toward the back and a nice older man behind me helped me as I stumbled a few times, wondering what book they were singing from. There were 6 eighth graders that had been confirmed in the earlier service and were a part of the beginning part of the service that I was in – with introductions and explanation to the younger children and adults (like me unfamiliar with confirmation) of what was being done.
The pastor of this church is a woman. I did not know how I would feel about this. But my concerns were quickly diminished when I heard her speak and saw her with the children. She uses humor and relevant topics to convey her point – yesterday she spoke on “Heroes” and used “The Hunger Games” as her premise. It was relevant and interesting. I looked around and saw many people just like me. The same needs, concerns and place in life. Many have never walked the road in ministry that we have – or ever will – they will never know what we have experienced in another denomination – never see things around the country and here in our own city inside a different type of church – and yet – I realized this: we are more alike than we think.
I’m not sure where our journey will ultimately end – but in the meantime, I am reassured that God is not just restricted to one denomination. He is everywhere – relevant to those who seek Him. Ever present in our songs of worship, our traditional choir anthems and in our prayers offered up in reverence. We have good friends from the Tri-Cities area who have been pastors like us in our denomination and have found themselves feeling quite at home in the Methodist Church.
When was the last time you visited something different from what you’re used to and were forced to removed the box where your God exists for you? When was the last time you were really open? Will it surprise you to see some people from other denominations in heaven with you? We are the ones who put people in denominations and categories of “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” – God does not. He just sees the heart.
Lord help me to be open to things that are different. Help me to see people the way you see them. Help me to engage in a way that I am always open to your leading. Amen.