Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Church #36. Father's House

You would never guess the difference between the entry way and the actual main seating area of the church. Inside it was, clean, well taken care of. 80's decor. And for some strange reason it really reminded me of something that would have been built/designed as a government building. Everything in the room was very standard, yet professional. Maybe it was the Canadian flag sitting just to the left of the stage. But it just felt like I was waiting for the PM to come up and speak. However I doubt that would happen considering the stage was already very full with an 8 piece band.

But don't be fooled this is a FAMILY CHURCH of all ethic backgrounds. Like parents and kids everywhere. The last time I was in a room with that much noise, and little humans running around was elementary school. But it has a very "family together for the holidays kind of feel". I can see how this would be very warming to anyone that may be far from their family or no longer have any family. I also noticed a lot of unusual social pairings. Father and son, mother and teenage daughter and single men. Not always common occurrences.

As the worship started, I noticed in that in the song's chorus line sang, "We don't want blessings! We want you Lord!" Which I found interesting. I first got notice of the pastor as she stood at the front Left side of the room with too little girls standing to her side. I was not fully paying attention, maybe the song said the word "strong"? because suddenly she looked at them and did what I call "the muscles" and they responded by doing the same. It was supper cute.

I noticed one fellow in the back that I suspect to be residentialy challenged. He was just having a ball. Singing and moving in all god's glory. It seamed that every time I turned around to look behind me something more interesting was happening. The next time I turned around I saw a guy licking off his knife.....I turned around slowly, and attempted to re-direct my attention to the service. YIKES!

The Pastor had quite the story to share. Apparently her very vigorous 83 year old farther was out snow-blowing, while a driver, didn't see him while she was backing up and knocked him over. The lady ran out of the car to see if he was alright, and sure enough her father got back to his feet, aid he was OK and continued snow-blowing. The pastor upon discovering this news was Infuriated. She could not believe that this lady would just let her father get up and walk away without that he sit down or seek further medical attention. When she spoke to her father about the incident, expressing her anger and frustration. Her father responded by telling her not to worry and that "I am praying for her."

Personally I think the pastor might have over reacted. If the guy just got up, said he was fine and kept snow blowing I would have probably done the same. If he looks fine, and tells me he is fine, and can still continue  down the street running a large gas powered snow throwing machine without trouble. I'm not gonna argue with the guy.

Then it was announced that If anyone needed praying for. A line of people assemble at the front of the room, men, woman, children etc. All facing the congregation and holding hands. Then, there was a second row people that lined behind this row of people, and laid hands on the people in-front of them. Prayer began. There was much tears.

Surprisingly that included the men. And even more surprisingly was watching a family with a mom dad and 7 year old son all coming to tears. The fact that this farther had the guts to shed tears in front of not just the whole church but his son was simply inspiring to me. And by that example, his son felt safe to do the same. I personally felt that kind of action showed not only pure honesty, but an extreme amount of guts. I also feel that this man is setting up his son, to move away from the phenomenon of emotionally detached men. Which has become a social norm in the male population, that generates all kinds of problems in relationships that can cause arguments, divorce and domestic disputes.

There was also a Birthday Blessing said.

Valentines day was approaching so I guess they decided to celebrate early. All the little children were given chocolate hearts to hand out to everyone else in the church. It was cute. And tasty.

Sometime latter The pastor mentioned another personal story about a friends baby that was not born well. At one point she visits the hospital and the baby is not doing well. OK, what was an understatement this baby was dieing. I my not know much about them, but from what my mother tells me is that babies are very resilient. But if they go down hill, they go fast. Despite all the medical staffs efforts, things are not getting better. At one point the nurse turn to the pastor and asked her to do whatever she could cause the baby was going. The pastor started praying and apparently speaking in tongs. And after that the baby slowly stabilized and eventually recovered.

As some of you might have noticed I have skipped the entire sermon with the scripture lesson. I'm gonna be honest. The lesson given today was likely not her best performance and there were some statements made that  would ignight my pen into a verity of long and complicated rants on how I do not agree with them. I am normally not one to hold my tong, but like my mama says "if you dont got anything nice to say dont say anything at all." OK Mom, you win this time.

After the service I had some time to speek with the pastor. We talked about the homeless people that would sit at the back entry way, listen to the service and wave at her. They would say they don't feel comfortable entering the body of the church, because they might spontaneously combust or something.

I think they missed the lesson on "God forgives all" and "Eternal Grace". All in good time I guess.

She mentioned to me that one of her greatest challenges would have to be dealing with the ups and downs of their members. Some members of the church that are homeless/troubled will make a lot of improvements in their lives, only to fall right back to their old ways in moments of weakness. The pastor expressed  that this kind of situation made her feel confused and distressed on how God some how let these people fall. She mentioned the best action they can take in this situation is to simply love theses people regardless of how much they rise or fall.

One thing that I observed about the pastor is that she seams to become confused or distraught when prayer doesn't work or despite having faith, things go bad. It can be difficult when despite all the praying and walking in Christ that life can still come up behind you and push you into the mud. Personally, I deal with this with two thoughts. #1. God maybe king in heaven, but Lucifer is prince on earth. We are living in the devils territory. Despite our best efforts, it ain't all gonna be sunshine and roses. #2. When you ask god for something you are gonna get one of three answers. Yes, No, or Not Right Now. That's what my bible study teacher said anyhow. I believe him.

By the way... random fact. If you are looking to conceive this is the church to be at. Apparently since taking over the childless congregation many years ago, the large majority of the women have become pregnant. Hence the swarm of Rug-rats running around the church. Speaking of belly's ready to pop, apparently there was a lady who had her water break right in the middle of the service, and had to leave for the hospital.But over all very baby/child friendly church, with mothers room, change tables, etc.

She took us up to her office and we got to take a look at some of the beautiful gifts she had give by the community and church members.

She showed me her little balcony that loverlooks the park, she calls it "her pope walk". Often enough there are fights amoungst the homeless people that break out there, and she will go to her balcony and  yell at them to stop. Immediately they will stop and yell back "Sorry Pastor Debbie!" Then she goes back to work.

She also has found way to manage theses people at her services. She dosen't mind them blurting out at times but one thing she dose not stand for is swearing. At that point she turns on the mom tone and threatens to wash their mouth out with soap, and they laugh it off and calm down.

One thing that she said surprise her, is how they have been safe from vandalism . Despite being in a very rough area with a lot of damage to surrounding buildings, they have gone years without troubles. She was highly concerned that this might be a problem when taking over the church and even took the measure to have everyone walk around the church and pray for its protection.

Over all a good church, but I'm just not feeling it when it comes to the doctrine.

Until next time my friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Church #35 St. John's Anglican Church

Well I know that some churches have baptism fonts, but this one literately had it right at the front door.

The floor actually sloped down towards the front of the church, similar to a theater. There were roughly 50 people at this service, mostly seniors.

I noticed that there were a verity of books in the pews in-front of me, ( no surprise there) but this was the first time that I saw editions of the "International Children's Bible" in the pew. The pews also had plaques on them. Some were "in memory" other were "donated by" etc. There was a large choir of about 30 people that paraded down the isle past me. What surprised me was that this group was actually of all mixed ages, from the very young to the very old, all singing together. This I find to be uncommon in comparison to other churches.

At the end of their performance The church leader said "The Soms say we can Clap!" So the whole church had a bit of a chuckle, and gave the choir a round of applause. I have noticed that often in church that there's a prayer said for people of "high authority" in our lives. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Military leaders etc. But this was the first time I have even heard someone comment on it outside of prayer. Quote "God is the one has has authority to speak to super powers." In this world with powerful cooperate villains like Monsanto,  I can only pray that this is true.

Today's lesson was about Jonah and  and the Fish. Now I know a lot of people that dispute the Bible will be the first to pull this story up. Cause in their view no one would live in the belly of a fish ( or whale)  for 3 days and 3 nights. Regardless, here it is.

Jonah Flees From the Lord

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

On my poster behind my computer, the 15th line of text says "Jonah ran from god" . And all I can think of is really??? really???? Bro are you Cray? If there has been any clear interpretation I have understood  from reading the old testament so far, is that you would have to be a totally idiot to run from God. It just doesn't work. If you have any doughs, just ask the guy that likely stunk like a fish for days after he got out. 

 While reflecting on this story the pastor had some interesting comments. He said that "Jonah can't believe". He also said that this story shows "The state of the soul that dose not want to live in god."

This brings me back to my old work place. Better known as FABRICLAND. 

Yes I worked at one of these.I am still trying to forget about it.

I had an old co-worker who I miss dearly. She was the direct result of someone who was raised by parents that living in the spirit of 1969.  Beatles hippies to the max. 

She, like many people in their 20's, was starting to take time to reflect on understanding her spiritual self. We were standing around one day next to the till, and before we knew it, we were having a conversation about believing in god. I remember her commenting something to the effect of , that if god did come out of the sky and speak to everyone, all the atheists still wouldn't believe it. They would probably just assume what they were seeing was not real. And  that they then the would all likely hurry their doctor/pharmacy and convince them to prescribe them  psychiatric drugs to cure their delusions.

And as for as much of you my agree or disagree with that statement, that is what came to my mind when the pastor said "Jonah can't believe"

For as much as you might think me off my rocker, I don't think I am that far off at all actually. Here's why;

The pastor also makes a point to explain a very interesting word translation. If you look in line 5  you see the word sleep. But in Hebrew they have two different words for sleep. One world refers to
the healthy 8 hours most of us should ideally be getting each night. Then there is the other word.

The word used here, is the other word for sleep. A word that describes a state of drugged, drunken or being concussed and asleep.This is an induced sleep. This is sometimes known as "numbing out". When the ship captain awoke him and asked him to pray to his god to save the ship "not one word of prayer" came from him, as described by the pastor.

"Prayer becomes impossible or meaningless when we are in a love-deficit. "
"When we move away from gods purpose we experience a love deficit."  

He also made a remark on the fact that he knows exactly how to numb out but was not willing to share that  information. 

He comments that "Jonah seems to think that if he dyes that other peoples problems will be solved."Also that "When we speak about assisted suicide we must be slow and careful." 

Something I found very interesting was  this comment. He said that the world becomes harsh when we are "not fallowing gods love out of ignorance or rebellion." I personally have a verity of thoughts on why the world might be harsh one people, but we will leave that alone. But I would like to take a moment to break down these two ideas. Personally I am not sure which one would be harder to deal with. 

First there is rebellion. A rebellious spirit can be good thing, if not a great characteristic. A rebellious person is extremely hard to break even under the worst conditions. I believe this spirit is one of the key attributes of many of the greatest people in the Bible. Where the problem comes in, is when this force of rebellion is moving away from gods love instead of towards it. Changing this is like forcing a fraught train going full speed into a U turn. Not impossible, but extremely difficult. 

Something that I feel may be equally as difficult  is not fallowing gods love out of ignorance. For some in this world, that might mean not knowing the world of god. But I think it has a lot more to do with not knowing what the heck you are supposed to be doing with your life. Welcome to the life of a person in your 20's. As mediocre as this may sound, it can really get to a person. Especially when you are willing to fallow gods path, if only you knew what that path was. I remember City Center Church where they had a speaker telling the story about how he became so distressed one night that he got drunk, and started yelling and praying in the middle of the the halls of his apartment building. It sucks when you feel like you are going nowhere. Lack of direction can drive a person nuts. 

 On further notes. There was also talk of porn. Yes I said porn. The pastor expressed his thoughts of the recent statics that he had read on the rate of porn consumption by Christian men. He pointed out that god knows all and that  we are being silly for trying to live in denial of it. This kind of lifestyle can create a "split soul" and "the antidote is Gods Love".

Favorite quote of the day;
"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!? NO! It ends up on my Office!!!!"

 But beyond everything that was spoken about today, there was something small that truly caught my attention, or more so, a child. If I had to make a guess I would say she was about 8 years old and moving around in the pew across from me occupying herself with a verity of items. My impression is that this girl seamed to have some kind of development disability. She moved around and played with things, completely in her own world. She seamed unable to stay still for anything more then a few seconds. Then we all went up to kneel around the octagonal fence set up on the main stage at the front of the church to receive communion. And low and behold I found myself right next to her. What took me back what how she stayed perfectly still the entire time while communion items were being distributed.  She closed her eyes and folded her hands and took a moment to focus on God. Then the most beautiful smile washed over her face. It was a look that showed  that she understood fully, the magnitude of gods love for her. That she was loved just the way she was. 

The building definitely has some cool features. Check out that dark section net to the stage on the left side.
There is, what I believe to be, a set of organ pipes in there! a lot of churches only have them for show but I am very convinced these were all real and functioning.I found it interesting how the back, vertical, wooden panels in the wall flapped open-and-closed as the organist played.

 But one things that dove me nuts the entire time what how much the Pastor resembled Garth from WAYNE'S WORLD.

 And remember, a good friend is always prepared if someone need to spew! 

The Lord be with you wherever you go! 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Church #34. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

 In this project I have seen a lot.

I have seen thriving churches. I have seen dieing churches. But today I saw something completely different. Today I witnessed the afterlife of a church. What can happen after the doors on the house of the Lord close for the last time. But like many things in this world, the end of one, is simply the beginning of another.

It was a bit of a clumsy start, entering this church. I went to the front door and attempted to open it, only to discover it was locked. I noticed some people heading towards the side door of the newly built expansion on the left side of the building. So i gathered my dignity and headed for the side door.

My first impression of the new entrance hall, besides the lovely verity of green foliage, was the clear commitment to accessibility that this church has made. I don't think i have seen anywhere else with so many wheel chair ramps! When you actually enter the main body of the church you can tell that this place is old, really old. A lot of the architecture harks back to the Victorian/Western settlement days. However I have to say that almost everything was perfectly preserved or restored.  

I also found this latter that confirmed my suspicions.

I also noticed these "children's packages" at the entrance. Smart idea.

They had a large choir of  approx 25 people all seniors or Jr.seniors. In my opinion they are a very well trained group of  singers and can really hold the audiences attention.

The church was lead by a female minister who had very organic looking robes that instantly reminded me of  a sewing pattern I have. You know you are a sewer when...

pretty close eh?

Similar to the last Lutheran church I have gone to, there was once again, casually dressed alter-girls helping with a verity of small tasks associated with the service.

There were approx 12 children that came up for children's time. And instead of having a story book, they got introduced to some new items that had been gifted to their church.

Augustina Church closed down in December. The items being shown today, involve a selection of different sliver serving wear that would be used in communion. This gift represents the now blended congregations of 2 churches.

There was a prayer  asking that we all be forgiven from our sins. the pastor turns to the congregation, makes the singe of the cross, and declares us all forgiven of our sins.

And part of me is like "seriously? That's it?" But then I started to remember that it can really just be that simple. Heck, Jesus healed a women that he didn't even know was there! She came up behind him in the crowd and bleary got a finger on the tip of his robes. It was only when he felt his power leave him that he turned around to see who was there. Even the smallest amount of faith can be powerful. Not to say that we don't have to repent. We got a lecture on that today. 

The reading from the scriptures today talked about the time when Jesus was gathering his disciples. How he had these 12 men just drop everything in their lives to fallow him. Thee homes, jobs, life styles and possessions. The pastor asked us to reflect what it would take in our lives to convince us to just drop everything and fallow. One can't help but marvel at the unmeasurable amount of faith and will it would take to do that.

She spoke about repentance. Repentance dose not mean feeling sorry about what you did, but rather it is the choice to change direction. She also emphasized that we need to have trust in God that he has our lives in his hand and we should not fear.

The lesson today was in relation to David who was having some problems with slander in his kingdom. people were speaking badly of him. And it was getting to him. We all suffer having rumors spread about us, via, work, home, school, or Facebook/ social media. David  declares "God is my rock" and hold strong and not let aimless rumors destroy your life.

This was one of the first sermons that I have ever been to that had a clear and relevant message for teenagers. Such as the hand full that were sitting at the front of the church. This was actually something that matters to them, and dose not come directly from the agenda of their parents. In this day and age rumors KILL. When something gets out it dose not stay secluded to one group of people, and it dose not die down after a relatively short period. Now when things get out they can spread across the planet and seen but tens of thousands of people in a matter of days, and has resulted in young people in taking their lives in record numbers. Just to give you some idea of this, I suggest this video.

This young lady was declared to be "The Worlds Ugliest Woman" on the internet. And she discovers this one day by accident on you-tube. This is an interview with her.

Another piece of scripture that was covered was when Jesus was on trial before King Herod.  And how he refused to speak in defense of himself as the accusations were made. The pastor stated "Our souls wait in silence for god." "let us commit ourselves to daily prayers of silence." "let the peace of god rule in our hearts".

A leader from Augustina church came up and made a speech. Also assisted with giving out the communion pieces. You could tell he was very emotional, an noticeably red in the face. I am kind of amazed that he didn't break down and start crying. If not in realization that his church is forever in the past. But maybe in the hope, that has come with a warm welcome into a new sanctury. 

And like in most churches, you always have that one interesting character that you cant help but notice.  A fellow likely in his 40's with a  full slicked over 1950's haircut, leather biker jacket, and wearing a steel cross attached to a black leather string. I could not help but notice as he passed me in the walk to accept communion.

Gods people come in all forms. Something to think about.