Church Incognito; Communal, Interracial, Intergenerational, my experience at a 7th Day Adventist Church

On Father’s Day weekend I went to the local 7th Day Adventist Church, and based on their interpretation of the Bible they meet on Saturdays not Sundays.

Upon entering I quickly got a feeling akin to family reunion, that these individuals having not seen each other for a week (perhaps more) were so glad to be in each others presence. I introduced myself to the greeter and shortly thereafter I made my way into the sanctuary.

It was crowded in a way that wasn’t unnerving, so I found myself midway between the front and the back, and I took time to get acquainted with my surroundings. There were a diverse group; inter-generational as well as interracial, and when it comes down to it I like being in churches such as that. It was also encouraging to observe that there was diversity in those who read the Bible, made announcements, etc.

The service started off with some hymns that I personally didn’t know, but out of respect (and definitely a love for hymns) I stood and was present to it all. After a few songs I bore witness to and partook in a corporate church exercise I had never done before; kneeling in prayer together from where we all happened to be seated beside our portion of prayer. I’ve prayed on kneelers in Catholic and Episcopalian churches, but this was kneeling in the most basic of terms.

Shortly after this the pastor gave his message about living in the end times, and how they, the 7th Day Adventist Church were The Remnant. That in following God by way of following the different doctrines and beliefs, they were going to be the ones who remained when it all went down. He also spoke about things going on in the world at large and the world around us, how there was conflict between Secular culture and Christian culture, and more to the point, the culture of the 7th Day Adventists. He touched briefly on ways other denominations did things that weren’t in line with what God wanted, in particularly Pope Francis and consequently the Roman Catholic denomination, all the while pointing out that this further proved we were living in the end times.

After the service I was invited to attend their potluck lunch, but since I was fasting because of Ramadan I just sat across the table from the pastor and we talked as he ate. It was enjoyable to talk to him and pick his mind, he found out I was involved in youth ministry and that I was in the Behavioral Health field and so he picked my mind as well. It was good to have a sincere and intellectual discussion about life and faith and everything in between, he furthered the sense of  it feeling like a family reunion in my mind. After lunch I took some time to talk to the people around me about what being a 7th Day Adventist meant to them, a lot of them referenced the view of being The Remnant, which is a part of Adventist doctrine and theology. One man was very talkative about his faith and what it meant to him, and I was greatly encouraged by the length and breadth of our discussion, especially because it never came across as preachy, rote rhetoric, or mere head knowledge, he did what he could to take his views as a 7th Day Adventist and practice them out in daily living. That is a kind of belief I can completely relate to.

Overall it was a worthwhile time spent amongst 7th Day Adventists. It was good to engage God in a new-to-me environment and to pick the minds of the pastor as well as members of the congregation. The Adventists I encountered were very charitable with their time and hospitable with what they had, the nature of the “Acts of the Church” as found in the Bible seems to be very alive and well amongst them and I gather that it wasn’t for show, that this is truly how they connect faith with living on a daily basis and not solely on Saturdays. And for me that has always been what keeps faith alive, application not mere memorization.

~Nathanael~

Church Incognito; Intellectual, Communal, Missional, my experience at a Lutheran Church

On the Saturday night before Mother’s Day I was talking to my friend about my Church Incognito project. I was still undecided as to where I’d be going to church on Sunday and he invited me to St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church, as he and his brother and his mother and grandmother would be there! I love my friend so it was an easy sell.

Upon arriving to St. Olaf’s I arrived almost at the same time my friend and his family did! So it was great to finally meet them! As we walked in we were all greeted warmly by the ushers as well as our mutual friends who also attend the church.

As I entered the sanctuary I scanned for familiar faces as well as to get an idea of who attends St. Olaf’s, and it was encouraging to see a diversity of older individuals and their families as well as younger families, and there were even multi-generational families represented. I am always encouraged by the latter because it’s something I would like to do someday, that is, go to church with my kids and my kids children. There’s something beautiful to it and I am pleased to see it happening in real life.

As the service started I was encouraged by the pastor making it known that he wanted St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church to be “intentionally making this place a place of welcome”. There was the passing of the peace, there was re-greeting some friends, and then it was time to sing hymns and reading Bible verses corporately.
Having grown up in the church for nearly my entire life long term memory has served me well. I enjoy singing hymns, especially as one voice within a church. There weren’t any “new” ones so I was able to find the cadence with the congregation and sing along. Even reading the Bible out loud and in community is one of my favorites as well, especially when it comes to reading what’s attributed to the doings and beings and sayings of Jesus. The power that comes with unity when it comes to serve God and serve others is hard for me to put into words, but for every instance I am able to worship God in the context of church I am ever grateful.

The service was good, Mother’s Day was the theme and so the message was along the lines of why God made moms. It was systematic in nature with bullet points:
1. Moms FEEL with us.
2. Moms PROTECT us.
3. Moms SACRIFICE with us.
4. Moms CREATE a home for us.
5. Moms MOTIVATE us.
How do we respond?
How can we honor our moms?
1. We OBEY them.
2. We BLESS them.
3. We TAKE CARE of them and lastly…
4. CHOCOLATE!

All very good, and Bible verses supported these points. And after a few more hymns, church was over! I was invited by friend’s mother to spend mother’s day with them but I already had mother’s day plans of my own so I politely declined.

Overall it was a worthwhile time spent at St. Olaf’s. It was good to see old friends and some new, and to finally connect with some people I knew solely on Facebook at first. I love Lutherans, they’re for the most part an intellectual group of people and I for one appreciate people who have smarts that they utilize in a communal-missional sense. Lutherans have that in spades, and while I might not align myself denominationally I have no qualms with those who do provided they recognize their identity in Christ first and foremost. Hearing about faith is one thing, but I am ever pleased to see it in action, and Lutherans for the most part have that down.

~Nathanael~