first Church Visit, Delmar Full Gospel Church

Date: 1/1/12

Church: Delmar Full Gospel Church

Pastor: David Gericke

Time Spent: 10am – 12:45pm (includes coffee and bagels after service)

Overall Impression: Good.

Type: this church is an independent one, however the pastor is affiliated with MFI.

*Update 10/6/13 The church was born out of a bible study in 1981. It is not a part of any denomination.

Format: Service opens with musical praise/worship, then a sermon, then prayer with people available to pray with/for you

Thoughts: I was really nervous to start my project. I didn’t know how people would receive my notion of exploring all the area churches. I shouldn’t have been worried, as most of them simply offered to pray that God would lead me. I take that as a complement and a nonjudgmental way of offering support to me even though I was clearly not clamoring for membership. I was mildly surprised by the pastor who warned/advised me that I wouldn’t find a real connection the way I was going about it. Everyone else seemed cool with the idea, and I wasn’t feeling pressured.

I was greeted no less than six times on my way in and inside. Some asked questions about me, others just said ‘Happy New Year’. The praise portion of the service was easy to follow and words to all songs were displayed on screens at the front of the church. There was a very small amount of singing/speaking in tongues. I’ve been exposed to that before and it was very unobtrusive and didn’t bother me. The sermon was about fasting, which is a project this particular church is doing all week long. The pastor suggested fasting food as much as we are called to by God, but to consider other fasts as well. Examples being: Facebook, TV, sarcasm, video games, or texting. In each case we should use the time freed to us to spend with God. He also cautioned that fasting is not meant to entice God to speak or more readily grant our prayers. It is more for us to change our ways and let us experience God through this change. He told a story of a woman called to fast of her criticisms. After the sermon, I talked with a couple more people who came up to greet me, but my best conversation was with a woman who I happened to sit down next to. She was new to this church by several months and considered it home. She spoke about something she has struggled with that sounded major, and she seemed to feel difficulty from this, but it sounds like things are improving. Her manner was really frank and I felt comfortable speaking with her. I said I didn’t know what I’d find with my project but was hoping it would turn out really beneficial to me. We spoke briefly about grace vs. works (one of my favorite topics) and she said she was coming from a place where the focus was on works and she felt grace was left out of the picture. She came newly to the church and wanted to jump in and get going helping out but was told by a member to take it easy for a while and let grace come to her and let the church be for her. I can remember a time I attended a church that needed its members to volunteer and keep doing and doing and I sorely needed a break which was not given to me. I also know that through works we share the goodness that we have and it isn’t good to refrain from works all the time. I guess what I’m saying is that you need both, and it may take effort to remember both. To me grace means- pay attention! God loves you and doesn’t need you to achieve a specific number of good things to earn that love. And works means- It really helps others when you do good things for them, so try to do that if you are able.

Overall Feelings: I felt good after this service. Kind of energized and ready to explore some more. It’s really freeing to not have the burden of others expecting me back again and wondering what to say to them if I return after many months absence. I tend to struggle with guilt on a lot of different levels and aspects of my life, and it’s nice to think I may be able to go into a place and honestly say I won’t be back and feel fine with that. The one negative I see already is that I probably won’t remember most of these people’s names if I do get to see them again.

Church Tour Project

Here’s The Project:

I plan to visit all churches in my immediate area of any Christian variety. I will visit each church just once (for now) doing just one church per Sunday as I am able. I’ve decided to restrict myself to services on Sunday morning as those at other times can sometimes have a slightly different aim, and also because Sunday morning is generally the easiest time for me to attend. I will work outwards from my house starting with the church closest to me and ending with the farthest church, in distance order as well as I can figure. At this time I’m limiting my outward spiral to a ten mile radius (so far my calculations suggest this will take over a year, perhaps over two). After that I will decide how to proceed, if I still want to. I won’t leave any church out, even if I’ve been to it before. Repeats will occur only if I feel there is more to see at a particular church that I cannot obtain conveniently some other time.* I will record my immpressions from the visits on paper and later in this blog. This will be an overview of the faith communities in my area. It is not meant to be a review of each church, because I do not think a single visit would be enough to properly judge the merits or problems of a particular church.

Why:

I’ve been depressed for some time regarding my lack of spiritual connection with others. I’m not currently attending a church, something I may or may not explain later. At times I’ve tried searching for a ‘spiritual home’, but with my changing views and the swapping of pastors that happens in every church I’ve ever been to, I’m starting to wonder if that’s something I could realistically find.
Maybe the answer is more dynamic than that. Perhaps I don’t need to limit myself with a connection to just one church when it’s possible to connect with several. I don’t expect a project like this to find me a spiritual home. I guess I really think my spiritual home is inside me. But this project may give me more of what I crave: connection with faith that involves other people. Or, it could just inform me about the communities in my area without anything deeper happening for me. I’m not sure what to expect, and I know I’m potentially exposing myself to some really unfamiliar territory, which is scary. But I’m going to give it a try. If it works well I’d like to devote a blog specifically to this journey and even open it up to comments from anyone interested. (PS: this is that blog! exciting right?)

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Notes:

If there is a choice, I plan to attend the later service on Sunday, mostly because I work a second shift job and do not get to bed until late.

I will wear comfortable clothing that is not particularly dressy. I think that if any church has a real problem with me dressed casually, they don’t want me, just my clothes, and I’m not down with that. I don’t anticipate a problem with this. I hope I’m not surprised.

I will not give anything to the offering at each church. I thought about this for a while, but finally made up my mind because: 1) I donate money outside of church to causes I feel are worthwhile. 2) Some churches do not expect money from those who aren’t regular members. 3) I have no way of knowing how much the church might expect or need or what percentage goes to fund what. I would want to give an appropriate amount and the mental stuff I’d have to do to decide on a case by case basis is already hurting my brain. and 4) As with the clothing thing, I’d want to think the members of each church would welcome me regardless of how much money I might bring in with me.

Updated in part 1/6/12
Updated again 4/14/12*