An Uplifting Church Experience

An Uplifting Church Experience

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An Uplifting Church Experience

As my friend Jenni and I entered the hall of the big church, a feeling of apprehension overwhelmed us. Our feelings were soon comforted when we entered a sea of smiling faces and outstretched hands. A sense of belonging engulfed us. Ms. Shirley, an older colored woman was first to extend her arms. She did not know us from Adam, but it did not matter. She threw her arms around us. "You girls have the prettiest smiles", she declared. "I am so glad you came to be with us this morning." Words can not describe what the act of kindness did to our feelings of apprehension, and that was just the beginning.

The second parishoner to show her gratitude was another older women. She was wearing a flowered dress with a big floppy hat. She asked that we sign the official guest book and requested that we fill out an information card. She had a smile and a heart each made of pure gold. She took great pride in her job. The church had named her "the greeter" over 21 years ago, and according to her version of the story she had not missed a Sunday yet. We took our cards and moved into the sanctuary.

It was magnificent. The first thing to catch my eye was a monstrous chandelier that hung from the 50 foot ceiling. It was awe inspiring. As my eyes surveyed the room, it was hard to miss the antique maple pews that provided seats for approximately 300 people. Plush emerald green carpet was the grounding to the room. It's path led directly up to the stage which was home to a variety of items. The band, pulpit, arid baptismal were the most obvious. Above the stage was a huge dome, it was colored in shades of blue, mauve, white, and several other soft accents. A bright light was right in the center of its point. Our gazing was soon interrupted when the official greeter returned. This time she was quick and to the point. She collected our cards and informed us that service was about to begin. Within a matter of minutes, a middle-aged man stepped up to the pulpit and asked us to stand.

Brother Terry, lead us in a quick prayer to open the morning's service. The band was already in position and a worship team was waiting in the wings.

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Brother Terry stepped from the pulpit and motioned for the team to come upon stage. A petite perky blonde appeared to be the leader of the five person team. It was composed of three females and two males. Each member was very fresh and alert. An energetic sense radiated off their faces. The leader pointed to the band and in a flash they had begun the first measure of the chorus. An overhead listing the lyrics was projected on one of the white walls. The team began to sing very loudly and they clapped their hands with great intensity. We quickly joined in, it was too hard to resist.

Everyone was overjoyed. The congregation sang, swayed, and clapped as we went through the fast paced chorus. The second chorus was just as upbeat. During this song, three members of the team began to dance and hop about the stage. Soon many people in the congregation were following suit. The song's lyrics said to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord" and everyone followed it's instructions. After four of the most upbeat church songs I had ever heard, the musicians slowed things down. Sweet melodies flowed as the direction of the service changed. The praise became more focused. Eyes were closed and hands were stretched upward. The songs were prayerful. The people asked God to "cleanse their hearts" and make them what they "ought to be".

This portion of the service was very moving. Between each song the band softened as each individual offered praises such as, "glory to God" and "hallelujah". A half hour had passed when the worship team stepped back. Brother Terry returned. He lead us in another prayer and asked us to be seated. He welcomed an older- man to the pulpit.

Reverend was greeted with a warm round of applause. The congregation adored him and it showed. He asked, "How many have their bibles?". Over three-fourths of the congregation lifted their bibles high. "Wonderful! Please turn to Jonah 2:1". The man appeared feable at first, but that thought was soon relinquished as he began to shout and get excited. He knew the story well. He urged us not to be like Jonah. He warned that we should take heed and not resist God's calling. The congregation was very responsive. "Amen" and "that's right" were often echoed in return to the Pastor's sermon. He spoke approximately twenty five minutes. He went directly into an open altar. A few people made their way down as friends came forward to encourage them. As soon as they were done praying, the band broke into another lively chorus. They closed with a short prayer and asked us to shake hands with one another. I can not even begin to count the handshakes, hugs, and "glad you were here" wishings that were bestowed upon us. It was very encouraging.

As we left the building, we figured that our church experience was basically over. We did not know was what was waiting for us. When we arrived at the car, a young fresh faced boy approached us. "I am so glad I caught you," he panted. "Each visitor gets one." We smiled and accepted the small package kindly. We waited until we were in the car to rip open the delicate wrappings. Inside was a miniature bible, a few cookies, and a pen that said "Christian Assembly, The Friendly Church." I have never hear a statement that was more true.
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