The fun thing about the journey is that I rarely have any idea where I’m going after I finish at one church. Sometimes it just sort of occurs to me, or sometimes somebody suggests somewhere, and it just seems right. Other times, because of circumstances, I know exactly where I’m supposed to be. This past Sunday was one of those. I finished up with Southwood last time I was there, and needed somewhere to go next. When I got the word from Michelle, in my Journey Group at Sojourn, that the group she went on a mission trip to Costa Rica with this summer was going to be talking about their experience this past Sunday at The Grove Baptist Church in Madison, I knew where I was supposed to be that week.
The Grove was one of the smaller churches I’ve been to during this journey, sanctuary-size-wise, but was completely packed out, and thus probably had larger attendance than some of the much-larger churches. The atmosphere was very contemporary — a full band played worship music, the sanctuary had chairs instead of pews, I didn’t see a pulpit. It may have just been because they were having a special program, but I was amused that they had a bulletin with no order of worship.
I was reminded of how much I enjoy being able to sort of let go during the musical praise part of a worship service. I am a hand-raiser. And I realized Sunday, though, that I will only raise my hands when I’m at a church where other people are. It doesn’t have to be common, but there have to be at least a couple of other people doing it. At first, I felt sort of chicken, like I wasn’t brave enough to do it on my own. But then I realized that part of the point of the journey is to experience how different churches worship, and that I really do make an effort to embrace that where ever I am. If I raise my hands during the songs at Southwood, I’m defeating the purpose of being at Southwood. Being at a church where I could, however, for the first time in a while was VERY nice. I’d forgotten how much I missed it.
Also on a musical note, so to speak, we sang a song I like a lot, “God of This City.” The funny thing is, it’s a song I very much associate with this journey, since it’s an exploration of the Church at Huntsville; the song and the journey both have an awareness of “the city” as a religious entity. The funny part of that is, I wasn’t technically in the city this Sunday when we were singing that, and the first time I made a note of that song, possibly the first time I heard it, was at The Open Door in Lafayette, La., also very much not in my city. (In further irony, they did another song at The Grove that we sang on one of the three Sundays I was at The Open Door, “You Are Good.”)
I realized that this was my first time attending a Sunday morning service at a Baptist church in over a year, which is interesting to me. For the first 32 years of my life, I never went anywhere else for more than a week or maybe two in a row.
Like I said, the service was used as an opportunity for the mission trip team to present about their experiences, and I was glad to be able to be there for that. There’s a chance that I’m going on a mission trip to Costa Rica myself this fall, and I was interested in what they had to say about it.
The pastor explained why they had waited six weeks after the trip for the presentation. “When you come back from a trip like that, you are, one physically exhausted, and, two, you are spiritually spent.” He went on to say that it takes a fair bit of time to figure out how you have been changed by the experience. And I think he’s got a point — another good friend of mine just got back from a mission trip a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been interesting to see her thoughts and impressions of the trip evolving during that time. I’ll be curious to see how she feels about her experience six weeks out.
The presentation was very cool, possibly as a result of that decision to wait. There was a slideshow, but it wasn’t until the very end, after everyone had spoken. The presentations, then, were less travelogue and timeline than testimony, talking about how the trip had touched and changed them. Very personal, very spiritual, very meaningful.
It made me hope all the more that God sees fit to send me this fall, but I’m very much trusting that if I’m supposed to go, it will work out, and if it doesn’t, I wasn’t supposed to.
Up next — I’m not sure. After this visit to a Baptist church, there’s another that I think I may have to go back to in the very near future. Not sure if it will be this Sunday, however. My pastor sent me an e-mail recently about bringing my new kayak and going out with him on Sunday. If he’s thinking Sunday morning, that may be church. We’ll see.