February 18, 2007
Finding Home - Hopefully Soon
In the spirit of being real and sharing things that we're not very good at, we are still visiting churches looking for home. It seems practically impossible to still be at this after 7 months. We have now visited 11 churches in our local area since moving here in July 2006. I'll beat you to it by saying it sounds petty and dumb not to have chosen a church body by now. Why not just pick one and get plugged in? Get to know people, get serving, etc. I agree. Please pray for us. We still have not thus far found peace and unity within our family about any one of the places we've visited. We have been finding out more about some of them, connecting with a few people, and trying some home groups/ house groups/ cell groups, which give a much better picture of each body.
We have tasted quite a variety of large, small, formal, casual, British, American, international, boisterous, quiet, liturgical, free-form, denominational and not, nearby and farther away, with varying kinds of children's ministries:
1 Baptist: Sunningdale Baptist Church (the smallest of the 11, close by our house)
2 Vineyard (we were at a Vineyard in California, but it is now no longer a Vineyard):
3 Anglican (all more formal and liturgical than we are used to, but obviously common around here, and a good British experience!):
- St. John's Egham
- Christ Church Virginia Water (a bunch of families from our school go here)
- Holy Trinity Sunningdale (the closest to our house, just finally tried it today!)
- Bracknell Family Church (the largest of the 11)
- The Brook Church, Bagshot (a New Frontiers Church)
- Runnymede Christian Fellowship, Egham
- International Community Church, Thorpe (evenings). Interestingly, heavily Texan!
- Morning Star Christian Fellowship, Sunningdale (a friend of Jason's from school goes here)
Some benefits of all this visiting:
1. It has been very eye-opening to see all the different ways of worshipping the same God.
2. We've met a LOT of people. People from our school. Neighbors we'd never met before. Lots of neat pastors and friendly, welcoming believers. It's great to see so many people all doing their best to follow Jesus in their different ways, all sincere and warm.
All these churches have been welcoming and genuine. Because they are all made up of people, they all have their idiosyncracies and faults, strengths and shining points.
The church we went to today has a really neat feature: at the end of the service, the kids' ministry rejoins the main service, goes up to the front, and shows the congregation what they've been learning or working on during the morning. First the preschoolers held up a pretty poster they'd made depicting the account of Jonah and the big fish. They monosyllabically answered some questions the pastor asked them. Then the teens group walked up the aisle and put on a mock TV show interviewing Jonah and one of the sailors, with teen audience members planted in the pews to ask certain questions. The leader ran up and down the aisle with the microphone. Some of the teens held up cue cards for the congregation to GASP, CLAP, LAUGH and BOO at the right moments. Finally the elementary-school-aged group came up with signs they'd each made individually decorating the word MERCY, which God had on Jonah and on Nineveh. So all the kids' groups were studying the same theme, which was cool. The adults were on something else, though. Oh well. Really neat to hear what the kids had been doing, though.
This decision for us is a soul-searching one. It's a trade-off, as I mentioned at the beginning, between:
- big and small
- near and far
- British or international
- formal or casual
- very different worship music styles and skills
- more or less inviting/solid/godly activities for our kids
- are we looking for people mostly of our nationality/internationality, or of our local village, or of our economic strata, or of our school, or of our customary worship style, or something different altogether?
It's been hard making this decision two years in a row, in as many international moves. I think it's the worst part of moving.
All the churches are seeking God. We are too. Where are You taking us, God?
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Hi Katherine, thanks for sharing your struggle.
I remember reading, years ago, a book by Juan Carlos Ortiz in which he told the story of a successful congregation that had grown so much they were considering moving to a larger building and increasing staff. Somehow they instead came to the decision to get smaller. So the congregation fragmented, each going to the church nearest their home.
It struck me at the time as an amazing leap of faith on their part and an eminently sensible solution.
I'm probably not one to be giving advice on this subject, though. We stopped going to our church several years ago (due to a combination of laziness about getting there on Sunday mornings and some mild differences of opinion about growth and mission) and haven't done much to find a new place.
I applaud your family's persistence and hope you are able to find the right community.
Posted by: jeffy | Feb 18, 2007 9:46:25 PM
From my personal experience, it has turned out that God has brought me, in the past, and now William also, to the church body nearest our home. For whatever reason, it has turned out that way for me, after much prayer. First, in Brightwood, VA, an all-black congregation, which the Lord integrated with me. And now, Trinity Prebysterian, where we went on Christmas Eve with you all. We came back home early from FL to be there this morning. Peace be with you today, and in your hearts. Mom THE LORD will direct your paths, for all four of you.
Posted by: Patricia Taylor | Feb 18, 2007 10:28:48 PM
I don't think your search for a church is dumb or petty. I imagine that you are working through complex and crucial questions as a family. Where God is leading us? (and how do we know that?) is one of the most important questions in life, and I also believe the "answer" to that question can change with time and situation. Perhaps you are also, discussing what makes a church, how do we follow God together, how do different people worship God, what is most important to our family (what is our calling). What a great opportunity to talk about these issues as a family, to learn and grow together. I will pray for you. As you know, we had a difficult time with church in recent years and we are grateful to be where God has led us now. I will pray He will make it clear to you too and show you the exact place He has for you. May He bless and answer your seeking.
Posted by: Julie | Feb 18, 2007 11:00:41 PM
I also think it's wonderful to be thoughtfully searching and growing in the process (as you so obviously are)...our process took 2 years, so time isn't the issue, where God wants you IS :-)
I remember when you visited our church in Knoxville, how you were the first one to bring my attention to the difference in singing TO God rather than about Him. I remember you sometimes during church services with that delineation, and why I'm happier singing some songs than others. And it's exciting to see and hear about different opportunities to worship our amazing GOD! I'm glad you're such an in-depth REAL blogger :-)
Posted by: Angie | Feb 19, 2007 2:06:01 AM
Thanks so much for the warm support everyone. :-) I guess I am my own worst critic.
Jeffy - I totally see the sense in many smaller churches closer to everyone's homes, rather than one large one. Or for a larger one to plant new churches with some of its people, in the process getting smaller (at least temporarily, maybe multiple times). I've often wondered why mega churches don't do that. Or maybe some of them do and I just don't know about it.
We want to be part of a church that isn't only about Sunday mornings, but more about all the other days, too, people caring for each other and knowing each other throughout the week as we encourage one another in our pursuit of God. It helps for that if you live near each other! Then again, people encourage each other across the oceans and continents as well - thanks.
Mom - so glad you and William are enjoying your new "home" - together. Beautiful stuff.
Julie - your words are such a deep blessing. Yes, those questions have indeed been bouncing around in our heads/hearts and home. You said all the great stuff I should have said in my post :-) I love your insight. And I am so thankful for your prayers.
Angie - wow, 2 years! That puts our situation in a different perspective...thanks for sharing that. I'm glad you eventually found your spot. Gee, that memory of church together was SO long ago - but I still have an image in my head of where it was. Would love to worship with you again :-) Thanks for your kindness.
Posted by: Katherine | Feb 19, 2007 10:09:46 PM