Finding a New Church Home … (Sometimes It Finds You)
I was raised Presbyterian. Then in late young-adulthood I drifted away, but never turned away completely. Eventually, times of trial and relying on the prayers and songs I had learned as a child helped me, and so I eventually found my way back. I started again to attend the local Presbyterian church regularly. Then in the early 90’s a doctrinal split (which was a socio-political controversy in disguise) in our congregation sent me seeking a church home elsewhere.
So for about 8 years I attended at a different main-line Protestant congregation here in Houston.
Eventually that also left me unsatisfied. One Easter Sunday sermon left me wondering if the pastor was even really a Christian; his Easter sermon ended with the stone being rolled across the front of the tomb, sealing Jesus’ body inside. I concluded that, at the very least, he was “all head and no heart”.
So, I sought out a church with lively music. I was pointed by a family friend towards an Assembly of God Church here in Houston, and I attended there for 5 years. While attending there I “interpreted” once, and “spoke” a couple of times. I also got the idea for a book on Christian spirituality while a member there.
But, as a moderate liberal Southern Democrat I eventually began to feel uncomfortable. Partly within myself, but also because I didn’t want to bring different ideas into the mix at a place with such loving, beautiful people … all of whom I cared deeply about. I just didn’t want to make any of them feel uncomfortable in any way, at any time. So, I once again went in search of a new church home.
I eventually located the small Presbyterian church that was closest to my new apartment. It had moved into a new address since I had last visited there in the early 90’s as part of a job that I was working at that time.
Anyway … I visited. I enjoyed the sermon and the people.
A few weeks later I decided to visit there again.
I thought as I was driving over … “Rejoining a Presbyterian congregation will be great … I’ll get to hear beautiful hymns like ‘Be Thou My Vision’ again.”
In that Sunday morning service, the small choir group sang (as always) an anthem prior to the scripture reading and sermon. The anthem is never published in the bulletin in advance. That day they sang “Be Thou My Vision.” I was radiant leaving church that day.
A few weeks later … I was driving to visit the church (I hadn’t been in several weeks) and I thought as I pulled into the church parking lot … “You know, I sure will miss some of those great gospel songs that we sang at the Assembly of God church … songs like ‘Victory in Jesus’. Yeah, that’s a fact, I’ll miss out on those types of songs if I join here.”
Sure enough, for the unannounced anthem, not printed in the bulletin, the choir sang “Victory in Jesus”.
‘Wow!’ I thought to myself. This time as I drove home I was not radiant, I was trembling a little with an enthusiasm that was tempered with some uncertainty. “Does God care that deeply about me and which congregation or denomination I am part of?”
Several more weeks went by … then I visited again.
On the drive over, thinking about the possibility of joining that church, I thought to myself … “Too bad that they have such a small parking-lot. I would love to finally bring to life my idea for a charity fund-raiser built around the theme of ‘The Church Barbecue Championship of Houston’ … but I really can’t do that at this church because the paved parking-lot is just too small.”
As I pulled into the church parking lot my jaw dropped. The parking lot was now doubled in size! “What’s up with that?” I thought.
After the service, I asked someone about it and this is the explanation that I was given …
“Well that’s the deal we worked out with that bank in the strip shopping-center next door. They needed a back exit for their auto-banking drive-through lanes. So, we leased them the strip of land for the driveway with the stipulation that they also double the size of our parking lot for us for free. They just finished the work earlier this week.”
Naturally enough I stopped procrastinating, snapped to attention (in prayer, of course), said “Yes, Sir!” and signed up to join that Church right away!
Dave “The Hermit” Deming