So, I initially was sold on the idea of relocating because I thought I'd be attending a church with most of my friends from college. But as time passed, I realized I wanted to see what else was out there, and I wasn't super keen on going to a large church with people I already knew from the past.
Besides, I'm not the type of person that needs to "feel" comfortable at a church to be there. I look at the church's genuinity/sincerity, the Pastor's humility and integrity... and that's that. Honestly, even with EBCB, I didn't LIKE PJ at first, but I really admired his sticking to his guns, and I was blown away by the sincerity of the members... I was surprised that people actually read the Bible and liked it. haha.
Anyway, in California, I looked through the EFCA and 9Marks websites and just browsed the net. Came across a few and read through their statements of faith, emailed one, listened to a few sermons.
The church I *really* wanted to check out first (I really enjoyed the sermon) is actually no longer meeting - they don't have a building anymore!
Then it turned out that last Sunday, because of Irene, the public transpo was shut down and churches were closed! (Apparently, a very rare thing).
So, today was my first Sunday. I boarded a bus that was pretty close to my place, and it took around 15 minutes straight down the street to get there. Where? Redeemer Fellowship Church in Watertown, MA.
It's in this large historic looking church that was beautiful and people were warm and friendly. Actually, they were VERY welcoming (although sometimes, there WERE patches of awkward standing by yourself, feeling awkward... feeling awkward. Sure, it's seriously less than a minute, but. it. feels. so. long. . . !) It's a smaller congregation (apparently around 80ish people), started 2 years ago..... and basically (as one lady put it) a cross section of many cultures and stages in life. There were older families, young families, just-marrieds, singles, kids, various ethnicities (mainly Caucasian, few Asians, few everything else).
The acoustics in the building was amazing. I could barely hear the praise team because I was overwhelmed by the gustily singing congregation around me, voices echoing off the high roof and floors. The songs were familiar hymns, but we sang verses that are normally omitted at EBCB. I also learned a new song.
The pastor is sincere, and he preached on church unity in John 17. I wasn't too blown away by a sermon I had listened to online, but I really felt fed during today's sermon. It was part of Jesus' high priestly prayer, and he spoke about how Jesus makes 5 requests, and only 1 refers to us (" those also who believe in Me through their word"). And that prayer is for unity. He spoke on different causes for disunity (the most obvious being SIN, and then elaborating), and then explained how TIGHT this unity ought to be (Jesus compares the unity among the brethren with the unity between the Son and the Father). I sometimes feel like unity is overemphasized, but after this sermon, I'm glad that my church back home also emphasizes it. Pastor Chris also talked about unity in the context of the local church, which is also helpful.
As I was speaking with people, especially since this is a starting church, I'm realizing just ... yeah, the wisdom in going slow. This church also had a separate board of elders until recently (past January) when they finally got their own elders. It's great to hear about people being enthusiastic about being "biblically-founded" and "Christ-centered." For me, it was wonderful to hear, and at first I thought that well, these are buzzwords that people would love. But then I realized, they're only buzzwords to a crowd that WOULD want that. I don't know, do you follow?
Anyway, I plan on coming back a few more times and then I am going to check out Hope Fellowship Church and maayyyyybe Heart Change Fellowship.
Sorry, this is really disorganized, and the paragraphs aren't real paragraphs anyway... but yeah, I hope you can overlook that.
Some Learning Points:
- EBCB isn't weirdly obsessed with unity
- EBCB's elders are bonafide
- NEVER let a new person alone.... those minutes feel really long (Even if you're extroverted like me)
I mean, I REALLY liked it here, and part of me feels like well, it's fine, it's Biblical, I'll stay... rather than check out another one. But maybe I should look around? Even though at EBCB, all I did was come and stay. Hmm Hmm HMM