Those were Danelle’s words to me on Sunday morning after church… You see it was one of those days when you see a bunch of people getting it right and we both felt it. Let me tell you about it…
After having dinner with some of the folks from Pambula Baptist on Saturday night we decided to join them in church on Sunday. They were great people, we enjoyed their company and were keen to meet their wider community and share the time with them.
As Sunday dawned it just happened that the surf was again looking good… but we had committed to church. Damn…Â
Knowing that it was also Fathers Day I was even more tempted to bale as I rarely enjoy the annual routine of making a fuss of dads and preaching on ‘God as Father’ or something similar. I find fathers day gets a little routine for my liking and I have heard enough of those kinds of sermons.
But I wanted to go, so after some tears and frustration at home because Ellie couldn’t decide what to wear we finally got on the road and down to the building where they meet.
It’s a double classroom and nothing very special about it, but the vibe the folks there created more than made up for a simple environment.
If you think I’ve been a little caustic in regard to some of my experiences of church over the last 4 months then prepare yourself for a much more effusive description here today because it left an impression.
Just to give context, we wandered into a fairly typical entry area with some people greeting and a little girl giving out fathers day gifts. We made our way in and found 4 seats just near the front – closer than I normally like, but all ok. The room filled up with 60 or 70 people, a few young families but predominantly the 50+s and quite a few older folk. It looked like you’d expect a church to look in a retirement / tourist region.
The leader led us in a bunch of songs that were excellent God focused expressions of worship and did a brilliant job. There was noticeable desire in the people to be there and to engage – something that always lifts the energy in the room. I found myself being drawn in… a rare experience of late and one I welcomed.
There was also lots of laughter and love. We celebrated with a bloke who had just got a job after 8 months of searching and we listened as people described what is going on in the church. It was warm and felt like a healthy family who were glad to be together.
We were welcomed specifically and made to feel like part if the family (probably because we were known to the elders) and then Sam was asked if he wanted to read a couple of verses out of his new Bible. (we bought him a Bible the day before and he eats, sleeps and goes to the toilet with it) He had brought it with him to dinner last night and shared his knowledge with anyone who would listen so Garry who invited him up was aware of his excitement. To his credit the little bloke wandered down the front and started flipping thru to try and find a verse. He finished up reading John 3:16 and of course it made everyone love him. While it was engaging and a little cute, Garry told me later that a priority for the church this year has been to get people into the Bible, so Sam was a very good reminder of how passionate we can be to know God.
The message was also by one of the mums and again we were impresed with the passion, clarity and depth that we observed. I didnt sense that the woman was a natural preacher, but the content and sense of challenge she shared was really top shelf stuff and left both of us saying ‘wow – she is good!’
Communion followed and was again well led and significant. Then there was the whole after church bit where we had people speak to us non stop before inviting us out for lunch.
In many ways it was a typical church service, but it’s hard to capture in words the intangible qualities of a church that really seems to be getting some things right.Â
Again I was reminded that the look of the building or the quality of the musos etc is not what impresses me these days. Buy the atmosphere created by people who show genuine love for one another, love for God and love for strangers speaks volumes about the health of the place.
I’m sure they are a mob with their flaws and foibles like everyone else, but maybe it’s the case that when a community loves well everything else can be easily relegated to secondary places.
Interestingly this is a community without a paid leader, which again impresses because it shows the way churches can function when they are left to get on with it and aren’t able to rely on a salaried person.
There was much to learn and much to be thankful for at Pambula last Sunday.