My church is small and located on a back road in rural Indiana. There’s no bell tower, no stained-glass windows, no second story– only a steeple. There’s a sign in front, telling the cars that drive by the name of the church, as well as a Bible verse and perhaps the time of a special service.
The parsonage is beside it. I’ve been in the parsonage three times, two of which were due to severe weather.
Inside the church is cozy. I guess it’s bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. There are Sunday school rooms for six classes, including the youth group, the sanctuary, the fellowship hall, a kitchen, four bathrooms, the pastor’s office, a small food pantry, and a few other odd rooms.
The people who attend the church are part of what makes the church friendly and homey. There are several old couples that attend our church, a few middle-aged couples, and some young families.
There is one lady– her husband is 80, but I have trouble believing she’s as old as he– she’s in charge of the food pantry. She hugs me every week and makes a point of telling me that I’m beautiful (and she is sure to note how very pretty/handsome the rest of my family is).
And then there’s another lady– she hugs everyone in the church, I am certain. She is very open and wants to make everyone feel welcome. She raises foster kids. I was in the youth group with one of her sons, who is now in the military. I used to help her teach Sunday School– the class for the 3rd to 6th graders.
My brother’s Sunday School teacher is also very open and welcoming. Instead of hugs, he shakes everyone’s hand. He calls my brother (as well as all the other boys in the class) twice a week to help him with memory verses. They have fun, too. This year, they built rockets and launched them.
Sunday School starts at 9:30, morning worship service an hour later. Church starts with singing, everyone standing and the song tends to be something almost upbeat, but still a hymn. The second song is either just as bouncy or lighter, but we are sitting this time. Prayer requests are taken, announcements said, an offering given. After the offering, the choir will sing. Our choir is small, twenty people at most. I am not in the choir because I cannot carry a tune even if it was in a bucket with a good handle. My oldest sister is in the choir though. She also occasionally plays the piano for church (she got most of the musical genes).
Once the choir has sung their song, we have about five minutes where everyone in the church shakes hands with everyone else. The children’s church group retreats back to the fellowship hall during this while the rest of us tell each other how glad we are to see each other (they literally say before we do this “As the choir comes down, stand up, turn around, shake someone’s hand, let them know you’re glad they’re here.”). When shaking hands, there are two people who come to mind during this ritual– one is my brother’s Sunday School teacher, who, as I said, shakes literally everyone’s hand; the other is a man who has a very firm shake and kind of makes you flex your hand after he’s gone.
Hands shaken, we sit down for special music, which is when someone sings a song. (There’s not really another way to explain that.) After that, the sermon begins…