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Friday, August 18, 2023

The church that's 450 feet from my house

Regrettably, there is one goal that has eluded me in the seven years since my dog Tammy and I left our old hometown to find our place somewhere in America.  It was something I was very serious about, and still am.  I speak of finding a place of worship.  Somewhere that I can be an active part of a community of believers.

This area doesn't lack for churches.  I've visited many of them.  Guess you could say that I'm hoping and praying that God will lead me to where He needs me to be.  It's almost like a microcosm of the journey across America we did.  I'm still in that "let's see what's out there" mode.

In the five years since I've been here I've visited some churches that were very big, others that were quite small.  A few of them had beliefs that I can not for good reasons subscribe to.  For the second time in my life I departed from a visit to a church because the number-one item in its statement of faith is that homosexuals are not welcome.  Now, I am not a homosexual and I absolutely believe it's a dire sin that God can not possibly "affirm".  But when that takes priority over everything else in a congregation's doctrine, ahead of even there being one God, something is terribly wrong.  One house of worship had a lot of people babbling incoherently with no idea as to who was saying what.  That's... just not for me, no offense meant.

I had begun to wonder if there was something wrong with my faith.  Am I being too "picky"?  Am I trying to find what many Christians have said does not exist and that I know that they are right: a perfect church?

If there is such a thing as a perfect church, I shall never be able to darken its threshold... because as soon as I enter the building it will no longer be perfect!

So a few weeks ago I was spending a Saturday afternoon browsing church websites.  Looking for a new place to visit soon.  Anyplace that would stir my interest.  It was a seemingly fruitless search.

And then I did something that I had failed to do when I first started looking.  I went to Google and for the search term I simply asked for "churches near me".

It returned with a nice-sized list of places of worship within a few miles' radius.  And the very first of the results was for a church... that was less than five hundred feet away.

"No way!" I literally shouted.

At first I thought it was an error.  Now, there had been a Baptist church with a mostly African-American membership just across the street and a few numbers down from my house.  I used to hear them playing their instruments every Sunday morning.  But they seem to have disappeared in the past year or two.

Apparently, another congregation was now using that building.

I found the church's website and its Facebook page.  And for the rest of the evening I was dumbfounded that a church that already seemed to have much of what I've come to appreciate in a congregation was less than five minutes' walk away.

So it was that a few days ago on Sunday, I walked from home all the way to church.

What was it like?  Well as I told friends later that day it was like Baptist preaching, Pentecostal praying, and a bit of Eastern Orthodoxy all rolled into one.  The most obvious trait of the church is that the vast majority of its people are from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe.  This area has seen a lot of migrants arrive from that part of the world and there are many churches that serve those communities.  This particular congregation speaks both Russian and English, which a few members were translating between the two.  I couldn't help but notice that during the sermon the teenage girl next to me was taking notes in Cyrillic alphabet.  There were some praise songs in Russian, that all I could do was stand there without an iota of comprehension, followed by songs in English.

The message of the morning's service was based on the Book of Joshua.  About how Joshua is the first character in the Bible who is instructed by God to study scripture (in the form of the Books of Moses).  It also touched upon verses in Matthew and Philippians.  My fingers were darting all over my iPhone's Bible app, and I must have looked like an oddball because everyone else was using good ol' fashion printed books.

The service lasted two and a half hours.  And I definitely felt that I was a better person for being there.  The people of this church are very friendly and welcoming.  They take their prayer life seriously, and that's something that in recent years I have started to better appreciate in my own spiritual journey.  They thought it was very neat that I had asked Google to show me churches nearby, and the top result was a place that I can see from my living room window.

I can't say anything in Russian other than "da" and "nyet", but I really enjoyed spending a few hours with my fellow believers.  Language has never been an insurmountable obstacle for those who are in the Kingdom of God.  Faith and love will always prevail.  I may not have understood the words, but the smiles and the light in their eyes said it all well enough.

It's quite likely that I may go back soon.  There are a few other churches that I've the curiosity to also investigate in the next few weeks.  No matter where I end up though, there is great comfort and joy in knowing that true brothers and sisters in Christ are but a brisk walk away from my front door.

I've said it before, and I try to be mindful of it, but it's true: The Lord provides.


SGOTGDS said...

That's a pretty nice story. You should consider that maybe God led you there. Someone like you could be a blessing for those people just as you were blessed to be there.

EricS said...

I agree with SGOTGDS. You said you were looking for a good church. And God places one right across the street from you. It's not often God moves so overtly and obvious. And who but God knows, but you might be the type of person who can help them in ways few others can. I think this is an answered prayer for you Chris.

Chris Knight said...

I went back to the church last night. Their mid-week service is on Thursday evenings. I am VERY impressed with how spiritually mature the young people are. These are teenagers who take their faith more seriously than many adults. Once more the service was in both Russian and English. I had no problem following along. It really does sort of blow my mind that a good church is within walking distance of where I'm not sitting. That most definitely counts as a "God thing", I think :-)