Our new church is so weird… (Works for us!)

All right, to recap:
The Taff family is about 5 or 6 weeks into a new relationship with a new church, after a rather extended sabbatical from church in general. It felt like a pretty good fit from the get-go, especially after we had lunch with Pastor Danny and his wife Pastor Jill (OK, for some reason it just strikes me as funny to call them that! I have no idea why, same reason I love to call Becca Stevens ‘my priest’– it just appeals to my sense of the absurd. I know, it makes no sense at all.)

Danny and Russ hit it off immediately, they have some similarities in their backgrounds and also Danny is a really good singer so they have that music thing going for them. Jillian and I also clicked (she announced at our first lunch that the reason we were meeting in a restaurant instead of their home was because the house was a mess– hello, INSTANT BONDING!) and have gotten together twice since then. The girls liked the church from the beginning, and after a couple of weeks in the pre-teen program (which she enjoyed), Charlotte asked if she could stay down with us during the sermon because she “didn’t want to miss anything.” The sanctuary actually feels more like a concert venue, and because this is Music City, the talent on the stage and the sound and lights are professional quality. The worship team rocks, and the music is LOUD. The congregation is very eclectic and ethnically diverse, which is a huge plus to us. But what I enjoy most and what keeps us coming back is that every week I walk out of there with some ideas and inspiration and encouragement– also, I can actually tell you the main points of the sermon, which is the mark of a good communicator to me.

Ok, so today? Pastor Danny is doing part 2 of this series that’s kind of geared towards the men of the church that has this ‘beat the bull’ theme. The analogy is about how the ride of life is sometimes like a bucking bull, the ride is really rough, transitions are messy, and landings are hard; but if you can stay on for only 8 seconds you can beat the bull. So last week he started preaching on ‘8 Lies Men Can Buy’, and every time he brought one up (like, “Real men don’t cry” or “It’s the woman’s job to raise the kids”) and explained why that’s a lie, he had the whole congregation yell out, “That’s a bunch of bull!” Needless to say, the girls enjoyed that immensely. Then this morning we walk in and there’s a dang mechanical bull on the stage. Oh yeah. And of course before the service was over, Pastor Danny and another pastor (not Jill!) had indeed done the whole Urban Cowboy, ride-the-bull thing.

Now remember, even though Russ was raised in a jumping, shouting, Pentecostal church, the girls have spent their whole lives in an Episcopal church– an unconventional one to be sure, but Episcopal none the less. And also remember, I have that pesky Inner Snark inside of me that usually has a whole lot of very cynical, tacky things to say about preachers who use ‘talking points’ and ‘sermon illustrations.’ However… something is happening to us at this church. My Inner Snark was too busy laughing to be snarky this morning, and the girls loved the fact that, as they said later in the car, “I bet we’re the only church in town with a preacher that rode a bull on stage today!” 

I guess the bottom line is that I’ve finally just kind of gotten over myself, and would rather enjoy the things I like about church instead of judging the things I don’t. 

Thank God.

So– what was YOUR Sunday like?!


** P. S. Coming  soon: I have stories to tell and pictures to show from my latest Runaway Mom trip to Chattanooga AND from our annual ‘Tori And The Girls Go To The Bell Witch Cave’ trip! (It may take a little while though–we were stuck in traffic for over 2 hours on the way back from Adams, TN and Madi was bored so there are a lot of photos to sort through…)

28 Responses

  1. themema

    Quite different from yours, but emotional for me.

    I need to start by saying that this could be a dying church in a poor and unchurched community. It was a few weeks back, before Russ and his friends Greg and Rebecca Sparks (Bash-n the Code) came.

    But today!
    Today we had baptism at Cradock Church. Four young people were baptised, three siblings who joined the same day that ‘Jimmy’ first came forward and prayed with Greg, ….and Jimmy. Jimmy had his dreadlocks tied up on his head, as he always does for church. When I came in, I sat down behind two young men that I was certain were there for Jimmy. One had very, very short hair and a suit and tie. The other had very long dreadlocks tied back at the base of the neck, and a nice looking solid shirt. In front of them were Jimmy’s girlfriend Crystal, an another young lady, Erika. I looked around and there was no sign of Jimmy’s Mom, and I was concerned.

    The service started, and as is traditional in Southern Baptist churches, the Baptisms were in the early part of the service. The baptism of the four was uplifting. Rob seemed to say just the right words. I got a glimpse of the mother and others that were there for the siblings, but they sat way in the back and I did not get a chance to speak to them before they left today. But Esther, the Mom and the kids usually sit about half way up close to where I sit. There was a man with long dreds with them, and I wonder if it were a father, or friend. I also wondered if this was not probably the first non-caucasions ever baptised in the 89 year history of Cradock Church.

    Shortly after the Baptism was over, a lady and two young people came in and came down and sat in front of us, greeting Crystal and Erika as they sat down. Erika leaned over to the lady and spoke and I saw the lady’s expression drop. I was soooo disappointed for her. I knew this had to be Jimmy’s Mom and siblings. In just a few minutes, Jimmy came out in his long typical uniform, a knee length white t-shirt, and sat down by his Mom. He hugged her and hugged her, nestled his face in her hair like he just couldn’t stop. It was so emotional for them,…..and for me. I feel sure they were sharing their mutual dissapointment that she was late, but also it was his way of honoring his Mom in a very emotional way that he had finally come home to the Lord.

    Just before the sermon, Rob introduced Erika who came forward and sang a long and beautiful song acapello. Wow, she could have filled the whole community of Cradock one moment, and dropped to a soft whisper the next.

    Amazingly, Rob preached from Phillipians 4 and dealt with worrying over things that don’t need to be worried about, and how one never knows what the reasons are when you are held up and are late for a meeting or event. Had to have been very comforting to Jimmy’s Mom.

    We ended again with We Will Stand……. slow, plodding, 70 year old white man’s style. I do hope we will continue closing with it but can get a little more life into it.

    Afterwards, I met the two young men in front of me. The one with short hair, suit and tie, looking like he had just stepped out of an important business meeting was Jimmy’s brother Shawn. The other young man was a good friend. And of course, the lady was his Mom and the two with her were his youngest sister and brother. I learned that Jimmy is the oldest. I believe Jimmy is 32. I got to greet his Mom and hugged her and told her that Jimmy had told me that she had prayed for this day for many years. She said she had. I said that I was so sorry she missed seeing the baptism, but we would never know what train wreck she might have missed by being late. She agreed and said she would liked to have seen him come up out of the water, but this was good enough. In talking to her, I learned that the younger two are saved, but Shawn has not yet made a committment. But when I greeted him, I asked if he lived near by and he said he did. I invited him to come back, and he said he would.

    I was sorry that Alanis was not there to see her Dad. He has full custody of her, and his ex has full custody of their son. But Alanis spends several weekends a month with her Mom, and she was with her both last Sunday and today.

    So Greg, this is the fruits of your labor! I marvel at how God used you, and how God touched Russ to invite you, and how Rob could not book Russ in August, but suggested his coming for the Community event in September.

    The final count for Angel Food boxes for our church this month is 626! We don’t need the truck that was to be given to us rent free to go to Richmond for our order, but now we are looking for a fork lift. As Rob said, What a wonderful problem to have. Next week is back to Craddock weekend, an annual community event, and Cradock Church will have two booths, one for Angel Food, and one to give out applications for repairs by World Changers for next summer.

    On a funny side note….

    This is a beautiful traditional sanctuary. But it is an old and very poor church at this point because of the small membership. Maintenance is done with paper clips and duct tape. Last night, when Rob and a deacon came over to heat the baptismal pool, the heater would not come on. They left, assuming they would just have to baptize in very cold water. When they arrived this morning, the heater had come on during the night, and Rob said they could have boiled shrimp in the baptismal. They ended up emptying some of the hot water out and then emptying all the ice from the commercial ice machine into the water to cool it enough to get in.

    We didn’t have any urban cowboys on mechanical horses, but we did have a great day in the life of Cradock Church. And God was at both of our churches today.

  2. tori

    LOVE LOVE LOVE hearing this!

  3. themema

    Oh, I meant to add… even after dumping out half the water, and adding all the ice, the temp was 95 degrees when they went into the water.

  4. auburn60

    Well…since you asked… :)

    Our church had a family retreat this weekend at a 4-H camp about 95 miles from here. I knew it was going to be dicey to talk my men into going on Sat. after Matt’s game (every one else went on Fri. night)and most of the work of packing and planning such an excursion would fall to–ahem–me.
    My husband woke me up late Sat. morning and I was running behind the rest of the day. After the ballgame and quick run home to grab our stuff,(AND SHOWER)we fussed at each other the rest of the way to the camp.

    ‘Did you get the chairs?’ ‘I TOLD you we should have gotten the snacks last night instead of waiting till today.’ ‘Where did you put the phone charger–well why did you pack it when I told you my phone was dead?’

    (OK,I never said that there were times I don’t sound like a fishwife.)

    But when we finally got there and walked to the camp where 200 people were fishing,playing football,painting pumpkins and just visiting in the lodge we were met with–just– love. Just a lot of joy and ‘I’m so glad ya’ll made it we were worried that you might not’ kind of love. And we had lessons on relationships and transitions and had a talent show featuring lots of the little kids and some adults. One man I love opened himself up to sing a song he wrote when his first son was born. And one little girl about 4 y.o. HULA-HOOPED for her talent and we gave her a standing ovation and the smile on her face lit the room.And one father -daughter duo sang a sentimental song and held each other’s hand and neither one can sing but it still made me cry.
    And there were photos of each family on the wall on blank sheets of paper and we wrote notes to each family about how much we loved them and appreciate them. So I brought home ‘love notes’ from my ‘family’.

    And a little girl I have loved all her life was baptized. And her Dad hugged me and told me that he wished all of us who had taught her in Sun. School or pre-school could have gone down into the water with her ’cause he believes that those people were some of the biggest influences in her life. And I was pretty close to the ‘ugly cry’ by then.

    And I know heaven will probably be 100 times better–but it’s kind of hard for me to imagine that today.

  5. LindaB

    Well, I loved hearing all these stories! The church is alive and well in a lot of places!

    Tori, my church sounds a lot like your new one——you never know what to expect when you walk in! There’s no dozing in that church service! They have a “drama team” that may enter at any moment of the sermon and give a real life demonstation of a sermon point!

    One of the first times we went, the pastor was speaking and using a lot of platitudes and worn out church-speak when, from over head, a bucket of water was poured on the pastor—–demonstating that he was “all wet”! Another time, half-way through the sermon, a couple (from the drama team) started arguing from the pew and got louder and louder—-illustrating a sermon point and startling us all awake! (I never sit next to anyone from the drama team after that!) The pastor had to stop talking as this couple took over the service! When asked that week what the sermon was about, it was not hard to remember! Another time, we entered the sanctuary one Sunday morning, and all the seats were rearranged in some kind of erratic order and random groups—–getting us all out of our “seating” comfort zone! You should have seen the consternation of 1000 people trying to find a suitable chair! It would have made a good “America’s Funniest Home Video”! And what a novel way to illustrate reaching out and getting next to new folks that you may be able to help in some way, and they may help, or teach, or encourage you! AND, it was funny!!! And I’m all over “funny”!

  6. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Well, I smiled through Tori’s story; got chocked up with Themema’s; and tearsran down my cheeks at the ending of Alyson’s. In other words, I’ve been blessed three times this morning and I’m not even out of my nightgown.

    I didn’t go to church yesterday….anyway, I didn’t go out to church, but I had church here in front of my tv. And it was wonderful! An almost-local church is having revival and, to my surprise, they had invited a favorite evangelist to preach. He is one who gets so caught up in his message that ever so often he lets out a “wow!” and dances around a little bit…not unlike my Russ Taff. He said he gets so excited when he prepares for a sermon that he follows his wife around the house getting her excited, too, and she’s been saved 57 times. The only thing I missed yesterday are those after-service hugs from my church family.

  7. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Ooops, Linda, you weren’t there when I wrote my note. But now that I have read your story….I really like your church! I’m looking for another church, folks, and I’d like to be able to go to your’s.

  8. auburn60

    I love the ‘re-arranging the chairs’ story. I’m gonna suggest we try that!

  9. auburn60

    Oh yeah–I was gonna tell you last week,but I forgot.

    We also close a lot of our services with ‘We will stand’, holding hands as a group. Sometimes that makes me cry,too. (What is this-menopause?)
    The man who announced the song always says-‘Alyson’s favorite song–We will stand’-and grins at me. So I think of Russ and Tori nearly every Sun.

  10. LindaB

    Alyson, there’s a dear sweet man at church who arranges the chairs on a normal Sunday and he’s a bonified, obsessive-compulsive perfectist who can’t stand it if ONE chair is out of symmetry. In fact, he is a symmetry freak! They had to lock him in a closet to pull this off!

    If they do this at your church, keep an eye on (or video camera on) those folks who ALWAYS sit in the same row every Sunday when they come in. You’ll wet your pants! (Well, hopefully not or they won’t let you sit in ANY chair.)

  11. auburn60

    I AM one of those people who always sits in the same place!

    My husband is the ‘symmetry freak’ at our church. There have to be the same number of rows of chairs,there has to be the same amount of room between the rows for people to walk,etc.

    This would drive him crazy.

  12. LindaB

    Yes, but it would be fun to watch!

  13. gracelynn

    Due to my present living situation with my parents, I cannot attend a local church. So I depend on my cousins who are pastors to provide me with their sermons. One tapes his and sends me a copy online and the other e-mails me a printed copy of his. I start off my time alone of praising God with one of my CDs playing and I worship the Lord through singing along with one of the artist or artists. I then spend time reading my Bible and focusing on the passage of scripture my cousin tells me he is preaching on. Then I watch his sermon and, once it ends, I spend several minutes in prayer. I end usually by listening to one or two more songs, singing along with the CD or DVD.

    Hopefully, once I am able to get away from these living quarters, I will be able to find a church again and be an active member. I do miss the fellowship but I am blessed to have family that is willing to help me in this manner.

  14. rockin robyn

    All of your church experiences are wonderful and what a great way to see and feel God moving in your lives while you are in His house!!

    My sunday experience this week wasn’t as exciting but it was all God inspired for sure. I go to a “Church of God”, and we are so reserved, compared to all of you – it’s pathetic (truly!!) Our music praise team – well they truly try (Bless their hearts) right down to the drummer that is, most times three beats ahead of the singing, but as I said it’s all God inspired. The only entertainment was the fact that I was the soundtech this week and the most adored two-some (the church secretary and a former deacon of the church) did a duet. Well during practice the secretary didn’t turn her mic on (everyone looked at me), did I have her on at the board… during the church service as they started the song together, her cordless mic died and no-one could hear her (everyone looked at me), did I have her on at the board. I’m just the innocent soundtech stuck behind the board **that knows my job.

    I’m thinking I need to talk to my pastor about setting up a skit like in LindaB’s church, just to check and make sure we all “do” remember the sermon when we leave. My church is so reserved, every now and then during a praise song one or two hands “might” go up but we never get all Pentecostal or anything… It’s all just prim and proper… Recently I attended a P,C & D concert and through every moving song my soul wanted to raise my hands in praise for my Lord they were singing about and to – but my reserved soul just forced out a little leg movement and forced my folded hands to grip tighter until my nails were leaving impressions in the back of my other hand.

    Someone needs to drag me to a Pentecost church and force my soul to respond. I’ve even been to Gaither concerts and it takes alot to get me to raise my hand in praise. Help!!

  15. LindaB

    Ya know, I think the church we chose to attend has more to do with our personalities than our spirituality. Really. Some people, like introverts, long for a quiet dignified time of worship where they can regroup after a hard week out in the world, and connect with God in a reverent and somber way. They need that and it nourishes their souls and refreshes their spirits. While other more outgoing types need to worship in a challenging atmosphere, one that encourages outreach and helpfulness to the community. One that stretches the envelope and gets us out of the rut of religious ritualism. One that includes mechanical bull riding is good too!!!

    Robyn, you don’t need “help”! You may be in a reserved church family on the outside, but you’re standing up and raising your hands in praise on the inside! God sees both!

  16. rockin robyn

    God Bless you LindaB, thank you for that… it is truly not in me to be anything but reserved. But when I see people like Russ that can’t contain themselves when just observing someone else singing God’s praise – deep inside it always makes me question whether he loves the Lord more then me… I’m almost jealous that I can’t show that love on the outside. But thanks for reminding me that God does see both!! But seeing others celebrating and praising on the outside – boy it does stir me up inside… sure does put me in a joyful spirit!!

  17. LindaB

    If it puts you in a joyful spirit, then it’s all good, Robyn!

    The grass always seems to look greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe Russ, after exhausting himself singing “Ain’t No Grave” says to himself….”Gee, I wish I could be more reserved—–my feet hurt, for goodness sakes! This is wearin’ me out!” LOL

  18. CarolynR

    I can’t relate at all to your church experiences, but have really enjoyed reading them. Thanks.

    My sunday service consisted of three of us meeting in my home to sing, pray and break bread together. It’s not always been like that, but it is the way it is now. It was a very precious time.

  19. tori

    CarolynR– That’s how I grew up! It was a little bit bigger group, but it was basically a home bible study church.

  20. auburn60

    And where 2 or 3 are gathered…you know the rest.

  21. themema

    rockin robyn, you know what Bill Gaither says. Those little flashlights are what allows Baptists to put their hands in the air. It works. Now, I have to be more careful not to raise mine when it is going to make some of the reserved worshippers uncomfortable. Sometimes, I just turn man hands upward in my lap. Start with that. And look up not down as you pray in church. Slowly, you will find yourself wanting to raise your hands from the elbows. But if you don’t, God loves for us to worship Him in our own way. I love to be around Russ and his enthusiasm in worship, also. But I don’t believe my inner being would ever allow me to be that enthusiastic.

  22. themema

    oops, typo that I just found. Meant to say MY hands, not man hands. lol

  23. Wade

    Tori… Glad you where about to get over the INNER SNARK. That is a lesson that many ppl could learn. Before you know it you will be up there RIDIN’ The BULL!!!LoL;-))

    Rockin’ Robyn…working a sound at a church is the MOST under appreciated job in the church. No matter WHAT YOU DO you are going to make some one mad. They are usually the ones with a BIG INTER SNARK!!!

  24. tori

    Welcome Wade!
    Thanks for manning up and leaving a comment– come on in, the estrogen’s fine!

  25. rockin robyn

    Thanks themema – I did use my light at the last Gaither concert I attended… it does help us shy “ones” to play a part in the praise

    I hear ya Wade but I try not to let it bother me, I do it because I have the talent and I’m just playing a small part in helping to serve while I’m in His house!!!

  26. nashbabe

    This was the post that did it for me on this darn blog. Another churchy person who took a sabbatical from church…and admits it! Another person who is (generally) snarky about church!

    Our church just recently merged with another (more staid) church. It’s a weird story. We are busy wreaking havoc over there, starting with the sound board (I’m an opinionated, not very techy but I know what I like sound chickie). I have to sit on my hands right now to keep from sprinting back to the board and tweaking just about every fader and trim, but we’ll get there, I’m told, and I’ll be back behind the board, adding my certain something to the ensemble…;-)

    I made the “mistake” of wandering into a Sunday School class at the new (well, merged) church. Got tired of critiquing the (egads!) sound in rehearsal, so thought I’d sit in the back of the class and listen in and find something else to snark about. (I admit it.)

    Instead, the lead pastor just happened to be there and said “the regular teacher is not here today, so I thought we could all go around the room and introduce ourselves and tell everyone one thing about us and share any prayer requests.”

    Crap. I’ve been found out at that point. No more snarkiness in the tank. After I introduced myself and said I was from Minnesota (land of the stoic Scandinavians I hail from), I lost it. We have a laundry list of prayer requests steeped in pain, loss, justifiable fears, and that sinking yet solid feeling of having to admit that we have no control over most of it and that God was going to have to really show up if we had a shot.

    I didn’t express all that, just the prayer requests in an unvarnished (but crap! tearstained! double crap! I don’t want to admit anything!!!) list.

    These people I didn’t want to love, didn’t want to get to know, didn’t want to leave my total tickedoffness about the whole merger, immediately sprang up in a group and encircled me, praying their fool heads off. Not to mention actually talking to me and appearing to care about me AFTER the service as well.

    Crap, this totally messed up the snarkiness.

    I have a feeling God was yucking it up about me just about then.

  27. tori

    Nashbabe– this goes in my Comments Hall of Fame. Thank you for your transparency.

  28. nashbabe

    Yikes. I definitely don’t have enough seniority ’round here to warrant that, but thanks anyhoo…

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