Saturday, December 20, 2014

Church # 30. St.John's Evangelical Lutheran Church.

So this was a more relaxed service then the last one. Fairly typical looking on  the inside, population of 30, mostly senior couples. This is the 3rd Sunday of advent, this being the Sunday of Joy. this is how it goes #1- Hope #2. Peace and #3. Joy.

 The Church leader Announced that we were being treated to a special gift today, a men's traveling Christmas Choir . In marched 18 men, all seniors in full tuxedos and deep red bow ties and cummerbunds.  The one exception was a slightly younger fellow ( approx 40)  who had  some what of a resemblance to Elton John.

They preformed 2-3 songs one of which i did not recognize at all. A short performance but well done. They all marched out including one senior fellow who hobbled out on crutches.
quote of the day;

"we ask the name of the one born in Bethlehem."

Today the topic focused on something that the pastor referred to as a "Uforia hang-over". He mentioned that we were approaching the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in Germany. He spoke of how everyone was on such an extreme high  and so hopeful of this extremely bright social and economic future. But that didn't really happen all that fast. They were still a lot of standing and residual issues that needed to be taken care of, and that came as a bit of a hangover for the German people. Same thing with the Israelite s. In the year 500 BC the Jews returned to their holly city from their exile to Babylon. And they too had the same idea as the Germans that the future would just be sunshine and rainbows. But there were issues. Homes were in ruin, farms had become overgrown and abandoned  there was corruption in the social order. just a mess.
The pastor also spoke about the voice of hope. this voice speaks to the poor, the prisoners,  the mourners,  and for all of us. In short, Hope cures the hangover.

"we are imprisoned by our materialistic thinking".

"maybe a very sick person in the hospital is  more free then us because their only wish, will be to get better".

He also quoted footprints which is of cores one of my favorite non-biblical quotes. 

The Footprints Prayer
One night I had a dream...
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.

He also spoke of the mustard seed and how "Gods kingdom is always growing."

a few observations.

This place runs like clockwork, the service is not all that long, but everyone knows where the prayers are, what page  the songs are on, and in all honesty, i had a hard time keeping up. I think both me and the dude  behind me in the spider man shirt with the large beard, we were both a little lost.

I had the honor of sitting down and speaking with the pastor afterwards. He told me that he had originally come from Brazil and was the leader of a large church of young people.  So as you can imagine going from that to a English-german bilingual church with 30 very conservative seniors in Canada. He told me that there has been challenges since he has arrived. A lot of them are European immigrants. Many of which have a significant dislike towards people of colour, refugees, non-Christians, gay people and pretty much anyone that dose not fit into their circle. He had had some rough times but also progress in a very slow steady way.
ps. I found some really nice stain glass hiding around the corner.

Church #29. The Redeemed Christian Church of God Rhema Chapel.

So this would be Church # 3 of our Jesus Street series, aka the one street in Edmonton with churches literately back to back. Today i went kitty-corner from the last church to find The Redeemed Christian Church of God Rhema Chapel. Congratulations. Officially the church with the longest name that i have yet found.

I had my suspicions that this church was largely populated with African Canadians.  And i was correct. There was about 400 of them. Mostly Nigerians. I was 1 of 5 white people in the entire room. I didn't  stick out at all. LOL.

Needless to say the crowd was very warm and welcoming, i received smiles consistently  and only the odd look of confusion. When i entered the church for the first time is was definitely kind of startling. I knew the service started at 10  but i knew there was some kind of bible study before that. What i walked into was a  half filled room full of people debating a topic from the bible. Today's topic was spanking your kids. Needless to say this  was just a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Especially when one senior lady stood up and started passionately expressing her position that children should be spanked. However there were actually quite a few small children in the crowd and i could tell there was a few small ones that stared fussing and crying with hearing this woman speak.  AWKWARD.

The lady that was at the front of the room leading/moderating the discussion looked over the crowd and said. "Any Contradictions"? " Any Comments?".  It was very clear in this enviroment  that you are allowed to have your own opinion and discussion is encouraged.

One quote i heard off of that which i really enjoyed said "Do not blow off your children's questions".
The discussion ended and  the service started. Of the people in the room it was noticeable to tell that some of these people were new immigrants and others have been in Canada for some time or were born here. There were a far amount of people in the room with traditional African clothing and head wraps. I noticed that the style of dresses with modest fronts and  low backs  is common here.

The Sunday school group was substantial. Maybe 3 dozen kids? I can't be sure honestly. This church is also one where you are expected to bring your own bible.

The building was quite large,  and was sporting a roughly 15 person band. All well coordinated in matching black and yellow outfits. Including a fellow on saxophone. I think this might be the first sax if have seen in a church band. There was also a group off to the side in white outfits. I came to learn that there were actually part of a visiting group from Calgary. The fellow that led the group really got into the performance which had him kicking his feet into the air and swinging around the towel  he was using to wipe the sweat from his head.
The start of the service was led by a more senior lady in a tie-dye dress studded with sequins  and top it all off all with a fine British hat.

The way she spoke was definitely familiar with that feel of no-room-for-doubt kind of faith. She said such things as " Because master Jesus is here!" and "In the miiiggggghhhhttty name of Jesus! ".  Just a very passionate and high energy group. I heard "Some one shout Hallelujah !" More then once that day, and trust me, when they say that, EVERYONE shouts!

"Can i get a witness!?" I had always heard the term but never felt the full meaning of it up until now. They were asking the question if there are people in the room  that  feel the Lord is present in their lives and and has blessed them. They were just simply asking us to raise our hands if we felt that was true.

"Testify" Is another big one. This involved about 2 dozen people coming up to the front of the church and telling how the lord has blessed themselves and others in their lives. A lot of the people that went up mentioned god healing sick family members, and helping people get accepted into university or the immigration process. But by far the biggest one was peoples shear gratitude and  joy over getting a job. Trust me, i know the feeling.

Another good quote "It is a privilege that we make it thru the day".
Like a lot of services, sometime near the start they do a list of announcements. One of the major announcement said that "The men, The heads of the house." *i will save my rant on this for a latter time. "Will be taking a stand." Which is a short term intensive program for men (women are also welcome) with a goal of teaching these people how to better stand up for god.

They also announced plans to go out this Christmas and had out goodie bags with chocolate and mini Bibles at all the major buss stops in the city.

At most churches, people go from sitting to standing. Here you go directly between sitting to doing the Rumba. There is no in-between. When you are going up to the front of the church to drop your offering in one of the two laundry baskets at the front of the church, you Rumba. When you are taking your 6 month old baby up to the front of the church to be dedicated, you Rumba. When you are sneaking past the crowd to get to the washroom at the back of the church, you rumba (maybe a bit faster then normal) . You get the idea.

I don't mean to turn anyone off, but i think it is only fair to let you know that this place gets LOUD and HOT. Largely due to the fact that the place is packed and everyone is dancing and singing to a extensive live band.
They also took a moment to acknowledge that this month is pastor appreciation month.  And they brought their pastors up to the front, and took a moment to speak of their exceptional work and give them some kind of large packed gift.

Scripture of the day; Isaiah 38: 18-19
18 For the grave cannot praise you; death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.

With this I find confusion and contradiction. I went to a Ukrainian Orthodox Bible Camp growing up and when we were taught was that after death you are still on a journey to reach gods kingdom and that it is possible to fall from grace even at that point, And that even in the after life gods kingdom you must constantly be praising god, or risk falling from grace. Even in death . So we had one night a week where we lit candles and did a special prayer focused on those that have passed on.

There was also talk about another part of scripture, one that speaks of emptiness. it was mentioned that the reward of good deeds feels empty with out God. This is something that i personally feel to be true, Thru reflection and past life experience. I know people say you can have good without god, but to me that feels like eating a tofu burger.  Your full, and you have all the nutrients you need, but your just missing that full feeling of satisfaction.

That's my thoughts anyhow.

The last part of the service that i saw ( because it was just going too long and i had to leave) was a group of babies being " dedicated to god".  That involved the whole family dancing to the front of the church and having another person that is not the parents hold the child, stand before the church, and give their blessing.
I know i was baptized as a baby, but i am sure that whatever prayer was said for me was nothing like  this. These people have great expectations of these kids. The prayers often include praying to god that these children will be great leaders and peace makers.  They will move nations, and have voices that all will hear. The biggest surprise comes at the end when the person holding the baby returns it to its parents and the final blessing they give is " your child will not die before you, you will not need to bury your child".  WOW.
Speaking of kids, i saw the "children's church" group walk by. I think the name is very appropriate considering there was likely 45 children and that is fairly comparable to a lot of actual churches i see.
i would have liked to stay to the end but my buss pass was expiring and i just needed air, i was just tired. Before i left they insisted that i take a croissant  and a can of pop they had waiting at the door.
Over all a fantastic time. If you are looking for a high energy church this is the place to be. I can understand that this might be a little to wild for some people to attend every Sunday, but it is worth checking out. And who know? It just might be the place you call home!