I've been on a silent search for a few months now, to find the Holy Spirit outside of my home and inside of a church. You would think that this would not be a hard task but believe me… it’s been somewhat of a challenge.
Not that I haven’t experienced Him in a church service lately, I have but it’s been short lived. He usually shows up in a song or a person’s prayer or by chance in another member who speaks to me from the heart. I’m starting to believe that He is partially welcomed because there is so much on the agenda and we can’t have Him messing the order of service up and prolonging things that need to be kept short and tidy.
Some people think that the Holy Spirit is a havoc wreaker causing people to jump and shout uncontrollably for hours and that He is egged on by the person on the keyboard, piano or organ…I've seen that recently as well. I don’t personally think that the Holy Spirit is unruly and needs music cues as much as He does a simple welcome.
I think that I need to make peace with the fact that church is partially spiritual but mostly informational by way of a motivation or spiritual dissertation. If I can settle that in my heart then I won’t be so disappointed when I go to church anymore.
With that being said, I had the unique experience of visiting a good friend’s church a few weeks ago that may be among the remnant that welcomes the Holy Spirit to come, stay and abide. It will not be because of what they plan for the service, as much as whom they welcome into the building. Being welcomed anytime you come is major. Being treated the same by the members whether you come once a month, twice a year or every single Sunday is huge. Why? Because there is a feeling that one gets when he or she leaves a church to branch out on their own and actually seek God in other ways, when they see their former church “family” on the outside.
The feeling is like being the black sheep of the family or running away from home or in my case needing a divorce and knowing that my choice would be sorely disapproved by the powers that be and the truly religious.
I grew up in a cult (I mentioned that in a former blog) and I know what It’s like to leave a cult and have to start a new life…you are virtually disowned and it’s a tough road ahead. What churches don’t understand is that they are not so different from cults at times in the way that everyone is on the inside and once you leave, you are an outsider. People don’t know what to say to you, if they say anything at all. It feels the same, it really does.
When I visited my friend Ken’s church, I came in and got the feel of the building. I sat in the third pew from the front on the left side and waited, for what, I’m not sure. As I waited, I browsed through the church bulletin for the usual announcements and committee meetings but when I got to the Welcome I was overcome with emotions. I can’t quite describe how I felt but one thing is for sure, I know that I felt welcomed. It was as if someone sat and prayed for hours thinking about the lives of everyone around them, including their own and wrote these words. I was told that the church came across this welcome on the internet and decided that it fit Mulberry perfectly.
If you are a stark traditionalist than the following words will mess with your theology in a way that will force you to disapprove but since I don’t prefer to cling to theology but only to Christ, I truly understand why this welcome was put in their bulletin. Here it is:
WELCOME TO MULBERRY
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no hablo ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsin,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion” because many of us have been there too. If you blew all your offering money last night at the club, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts…and you!
EVERYONE ACCEPTED, UNCONDITIONALLY!
After reading this welcome, I relaxed because I realized that if any or all of those people were sitting around me waiting to worship on a Sunday morning, then Jesus had to show up because those were the people that He preached to when He traveled on the roadside, the seashore and in the streets. That’s when I said quietly “welcome Holy Spirit” and He showed up.
I would like to thank Ken Fuquay for allowing me to use this welcome in my blog. Your friendship is becoming more and more priceless to me every day and I thoroughly enjoyed your message, singing and directing of the choir. I’ll see you again some Sunday morning my friend…