since moving to Bradford county (officially) over 3 weeks ago, we have been searching for a church home. we've tried several churches, and several different denominations, but haven't found the one for our family, yet. it has been interesting, and our drives home have been perfect for family discussions. we've been able to discuss many different aspects of worshiping God, and how and where people choose to do it.
a whole new aspect of the church hunting routine for me is doing it with a toddler who is absolutely incapable of sitting through church. going into the nursery with A has been a "baptism by immersion" regarding the children being cared for, as well as the caregivers. the last 2 weeks have been particularly interesting. last week we went to a small country church that turned out to be much too far away. anyway, when we went up to the nursery, there were not enough supplies for A to participate in their activity. i also found the children to be very aggressive, manipulative and disobedient. the mothers that were there did not seem too friendly, either. today we did not fare much better. it seems that this nursery was a BYOT (bring your own toys) of course, we did not know that, and the regular children were not inclined to share, as evidenced by the grabbing of the doll A was playing with, as well as the screaming and pushing. the mother in the nursery explained to me that since the doll was "johnny's" A should really give it back. while this whole process does seem harder on me than A, it is a bit easier to discern if the church we are visiting is a potential home for our family.
it is thought provoking to observe the differences in each churches' ritual (or lack thereof) and ponder the meaning. offering can be something very formal, with liturgy surrounding it, or as simple as the pastor standing and saying, "here are 2 baskets up front. please come put something in them when you feel led." or, an order of service that is very predictable and laid out for you in the bulletin, to only regular members receiving a bulletin in their mailbox (i guess they don't expect visitors), all the way down to "we don't do bulletins." there are also Reverends who have on full liturgical garments and stole, to the pastor who comes in a Hawaiian shirt. sitting can be on formal pews, folding chairs or theater seats. and of course the music is different, also. there are hymns, worship songs with an organ or guitar, worship leaders and bands, tambourines and flags. there might be quiet, personal meditation, community sharing and praying, or speaking in tongues and jumping.
we had a funny thing happen today that we were chuckling about on the way home. of course, you can spot our family from a mile away, and it's instantly obvious that we're visitors. the pastor's wife came over to welcome us, and started at the end of the line with the big kids. after shaking all their hands she said, "what nice names you all have. are you homeschooled?" in the car, they were all like- how did she know???!!!
what are we looking for, exactly? we would like a church where we have much in common with the folks there, and where the church family will walk alongside of us as we seek to know God better and raise our family to love and serve Him. sort of like- we're all in this together. there are so many things to consider. ultimately, what if we go to a bible believing, gospel preaching church with sound doctrine, is that what is most important? are all those other things not as significant as we think them to be? our children will be most profoundly affected by the time they spend with us throughout the week, and Sunday morning is just to reinforce what we've taught them at home. it's a tough question, and we will continue to be faithful as we look for the church that God would have us attend.