It's all a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

St. Andrew's Anglican
This past Saturday night was our regular Dinner for Eight meeting. This group is the last remaining vestige of our glorious old church, and contains some of our favorite people in the whole world. The group is so great, in fact, that it is now dinner for twelve. Because this group likes to stay out late and drink too much, Miss J and I asked my parents to watch the boys for us and take them to church the following morning. The boys love Country Baptist church, and Mom and Dad love showing them off.

That night at the dinner Miss J and I realized that since we were not going to have the boys we could go to church together anywhere we wanted to go. Of course, this being a group made up of all former members of the now defunct church, conversation inevitably turns to where we are all finding ourselves on Sunday mornings these days. As it turns out, a majority of the group was planning to go to St. Andrew's the next morning. I was already planning to visit an Episcopal congregation. St. Andrew's, being Anglican, was certainly close enough. My sister called Sunday morning and asked to tag along, we said sure.

Facilities:
This congregation has recently moved from a temporary space into a new building. This place is not yet finished. There was some siding missing from the outside, the parking lot was not totally paved, the landscaping was undone, and there were places inside where things were not painted yet. When this place is finished, it is going to be prettier than any church building I have ever been in. Lots or bright red and yellow, with dark wood trim and clear, rather than stained glass windows that allow a lot of natural light in. It was a really pretty place.

Crowd:
We were greeted at the door by a nice gentleman who showed us the way to the sanctuary. (We had unknowingly walked into the downstairs, back door.) Along the walk to the service we were accosted by two older women who were a bit over enthused and a little too friendly for me, but I am the nervous lonely type anyway. They were honestly glad to meet us and happy that we were there. That is nice. Upon entering the sanctuary, we were immediately greeted by the sight of our dear friends sitting right there near the back on the right. (This is where Otis had informed us that the cool people sit)

The rest of the crowd was very mixed. Black, white, other; young, old. I noticed that the people who were serving in the church, the laypeople, appeared to be completely normal. Like the sort of people you would know from work, not from church. I felt really comfortable among these people, like they were not judging me and did not feel like they were better than me. This plus the attendance of some of my closest friends made for a very relaxing morning.

The Service:
Once again they had a contemporary worship band. (Apparently they have a very traditional service at 9:00. I plan to attend that sometime soon.) A gentleman about my age with an acoustic guitar was leading. There was another guy playing acoustic and singing harmony, a chick singer, bass, drums, and an older fellow playing a mean Fender guitar. This band was superb, if a little mellow, and I thought they did an excellent job of adding contemporary music to a very liturgical service.

We did the responsive reading thing, we did the march the cross down the isle thing, we knelt, we stood, we sat, we did not grow bored, and we had plenty to reflect on. I particularly enjoyed the reading from the Old Testament. I remember enjoying it at the time, but I really enjoyed it later when my buddy Mike Page came over and started flipping out about it. Something about one of those olde prophet cats laying on top of a child to heal it.

Then the speaker came on. He did a real nice job, and was very entertaining. The substance of what he had to say was inspiring also. He talked about the funeral of a man he went to grade school with. He told how people went on and on at the funeral about what an amazing, generous, loving man he was. He confessed how the man drank too much, smoked, and worked long hours, but he still found time to make a difference. He loved the Lord and his neighbor.

After that was Holy Communion, High Church style. Now this made me a little nervous, because I had no idea what what going to happen, but I was pretty sure that I was going to have to walk down to the front of the auditorium. As it turns out, it was pretty neat, and it was no problem to follow those around me and see how they were doing it. An usher told our row when to stand up and when to go down front. We got in line at the end of the aisle, and another usher told us when there was a place available at the alter for us and where to kneel. One robed preacher dude walked by with the Holy Eucharist, and then one passed with the Blood of Jesus. The wafers were of the standard Catholic variety, the wine had alcohol in it and was very sweet and was passed down the row in a big earthenware goblet. Between each sip the cup bearer rotated and wiped the cup. If you were not comfortable with this, they had a centrally placed cup for dipping. Jenni quickly declared herself a dipper.

That was that, and we left. Mom and Dad had a beautiful Pork Roast waiting for us in Maumelle. Elapsed time: 95 Minutes.

Would I Go Back?:

Yeah, I am really having to remind myself that I am on a quest here. I would go back this Sunday if I did not have more churches to check out.

Monday, June 11, 2007

As a graduate of Bismarck High School, Bismarck, AR, let me tell you how proud this article makes me! My favorite part:
Education officials expressed most concern about Bismarck, which was projected to have an ending balance of negative $220,000 for the fiscal year that ends June 30th, 2008. An audit found multiple unauthorized payments, including an $18,000 contribution to a retirement plan for the district's former superintendent.
Remember that little tidbit as you pay your property taxes this year.