So today is the day for the field trip! Part two of the grand biblical experiment. It took some research and some assistance from Anthony, but I decided my first exposure to “a church service” would be at the North Shore Alliance Church located in North Vancouver.
What initially intrigued me on their website was their about page, which I know Anthony will totally understand the irony of this. Their page states, “North Shore Alliance is a multi-generational church in the heart of the North Shore. Our community is seeking to follow Jesus, to participate in His kingdom, and to proclaim Him in word and deed. If you’re looking for the perfect church, you won’t find it here. We’re a community of broken people, seeking God for our healing and wholeness. God is writing a unique story in our midst, one that we are enjoying every step of the way. Come join us, and enjoy the journey.” Reading this struck a chord with me. It appealed to me in the sense that regular every day people who have problems attend this church and their message didn’t seem to be aggressive or intimidating. I also liked how it says “enjoy the journey,” which coincides with how Anthony always refers to this experiment as “my journey.” I have been fortunate to have him as my support along the way for which I am grateful.
I have to admit I was nervous as we drove into the parking lot today. I was happy my good friend Sarah had decided to partake in the experiment and come with me on my field trip. Dozens of people were gathered outside chatting and despite my previous research I quickly scanned to ensure my attire was appropriate. Some were sporting their best outfits, but most people were dressed casually and I was relieved to see I fit right in. Now I don’t want to mislead you, my nervousness wasn’t just about whether I was dressed appropriately, it was mostly fear of the unknown. I have been enjoying my journey of discovery so far through prayer and reading, but I was partially worried that this would be a tipping point. Either it would help me move forward and delve into this further, or if the experience was negative I would want to put on the breaks and possibly jump ship. I was talking with a friend yesterday and she said trying to find the right church to her was like shoe shopping, if you don’t find the right one that fits there are so many out there, just try another one on for size.
We lined up and funneled through the front door with everyone and immediately an older man kindly shook my hand and welcomed me to the church with a warm smile. I didn’t really take in my surroundings, my first thought was to head upstairs and get a good seat where I could get the best view and not miss out on anything. The pews were set up like stadium seating and we picked the one closest to the front. To my surprise there was a stage decorated with modern technology and beautiful backdrop of orange, red and yellow flowers highlighted by tea light candles. To the right of the stage was a mini pool that resembled a hot tub, to the left a towering wooden cross, and center stage was the main attraction packed full of musical instruments. I was definitely not expecting a band!
As the seats filled up the buzz of the crowd grew louder until a woman sat down at the grand piano and tickled the ivories, then everyone automatically quieted down and took a seat. Being in unchartered territory for me, I just had to observe and mimic others. The other musicians joined her on stage and the music took on a life of it’s own. As the projection screen illuminated with the lyrics, everyone stood up , joined in chorus and totally let loose.
It was an amazing sight that brought a smile to my face instantly. Everyone was clapping and getting their groove on. Even an elderly lady in the first row below us was dancing with her hands in the air like she didn’t care. The only hymn I know is Amazing Grace, and I was expecting a more somber environment, but was pleasantly surprised. The room was full of so much joy and the only puzzling bit was some people held one hand in the air while they were singing. I had to ask Anthony on this one and he explained it was their way of lifting up praise. He said back in the day people used to raise both hands, so this was as type of throwback to the original way. At this point I was relaxed and found myself singing and tapping my feet to the music.
They played about four songs before everyone sat down and the pastor took the stage. At this point they passed around collection baskets, which I was prepared for and had some money in my pocket ready to go. I watched as the empty basket passed through all the hands in the first row before us and no one made a donation. Not knowing the protocol here, I did think it was rather odd. I assumed everyone would do some kind of donation no matter how small, so this was a little surprising to me.
The sermon text was 2 Corinthians 12:7 -10; which thanks to my bible readings I knew where to find this in the book. The pastor was animated and his voice was flowed with sincerity, which kept me interested the entire time. He referenced Easter as “Resurrection Sunday” and went on to discuss brokenness and how it is hard to market Easter to people as opposed to Christmas. I learned about what happened when Jesus died and was resurrected. How three days after His death two women went to see him and found an angelic messenger instead explaining to them “He has risen.” If you are interested in having a listen to the sermon check it out, “Wounds That Heal: Bringing Our Hurts To The Cross.”
Once the pastor was finished with the sermon he asked everyone to bow their head, while he said a prayer. I admit I kept my eyes shut the entire time, but towards the end I did peek because I wasn’t sure if he was finished or not. I felt silly when I realized everyone said “Amen” at the end. The finale was a bonus for me in terms of exposure; there were actually 3 baptisms performed. I always wondered how they were done, and the background stories told by each person were heartwarming.
To conclude the service the band played one of the upbeat songs from earlier again and people then made their way downstairs for coffee. The song was quite catchy and I did try to Shazam it on my Iphone before leaving, but no dice. As we made our way through the sea of people in the lobby the positive energy was overwhelming and again I found myself smiling. I don’t think I have ever been in a room so full of love before? Whether it was a combination of love for God and or each other, it was amazing! On my way out I wondered past and picked up some more literature on the church and program from today’s service.
As I was writing this post, I actually took a few minutes to send a thank you email and also asked if they could provide me with the song titles from earlier today. I actually want to download one of them. To my surprise I received 3 emails back from different members of the church. One was for an invite to a luncheon next Sunday, another from the pastor offering any assistance in my journey and a final one with all the song artists and titles for me. Wonderful!
So did I consider the experiment a success today? For sure! Did I enjoy myself? Totes! Do I plan on going back? It warmed my heart to be around such joyous people and the overwhelming sense of love was amazing, so yes I plan on going again!
Before the Easter weekend Anthony actually shared with me the following from the book 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I actually read it for everyone before Easter dinner this weekend. Being a non-religious family some said it was beautiful and some responded with cynicism, but I didn’t care. Water off a ducks back as they say.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!