Remember how you feel when you visit someone whose house smells like your grandmother’s house smelled? Or you see those crocheted doilies and immediately you’re back in your childhood?
That’s kind of the way I felt on Sunday. We were traveling through Quechee, Vermont, watching for a church to stop at. We knew Churches of Christ were rare in the northeast, so we were hoping for a Congregational or community church. We saw some people entering a lovely building, but it was Universalist and we were hoping for something a little closer to what we were used to.
Then suddenly Steve said, “A Church of Christ sign!” and veered into the next parking lot to turn around and go back. Sure enough! There it was: “Upper Valley Church of Christ.” A modest white frame building, no steeple. (I adore the steeples in New England, especially against a blue fall sky.) Few cars were in the parking lot, but we got out and went in. As we entered the sanctuary, the teacher at the front of the eight people there said, “Ah! Are you the folks from Oklahoma?”
I said, “No, we’re the ones from Kentucky!” He looked disappointed. And continued with his lesson on Philippians 3. At that point I realized we were 20% of the attendees, and the woman next to us turned out to be a visitor also.
As I looked around, everything seemed so familiar. Basic pale blue walls, plain baptistry in the front, clear open windows, and on each side in the front was hanging the hymn numbers on the left side and the attendance and contribution numbers on the right side. Wow! I hadn’t seen that in a very long time and I clearly remembered the little country church where I grew up that looked exactly like that. (Except early on we didn’t post the song numbers. That was a new-fangled idea that came later.) Missing were the funeral home fans that used to be in with the hymnals. Overhead fans replaced those, I guess.
Of the few people there, three contributed to the class–a pretty good portion, I guess. The teacher, who was also the preacher, did most of the talking. Steve is good about picking up a bulletin as we enter, so I looked it over and saw that class was 9:30-10:15 and worship didn’t start until 10:45. Now that was different from my childhood or our own congregation, for we only allow 15 minutes between “Sunday School” and “church.” I wondered if possibly it was a fellowshipping time, but it wasn’t mentioned.
When class was over, the visitor beside us introduced herself and explained that she was passing through and stopped because she was a friend of the preacher’s wife. No one else came around, though a few more had wandered in during the class. I went in search of the restrooms, which were in the basement. When I left the restroom, I smelled coffee and peeked into the large room with a pass-through into the kitchen. I could see they were drinking coffee, so I went upstairs to tell Steve.
A gentleman who had arrived late was telling Steve about his wife’s wreck, and I suggested we go down for coffee, which we did. I noticed that even though everything looked fresh and not worn, it was not very clean. Trash on the steps prompted me to think, “Kim would never put up with that at Central!”
We had our coffee, and a lady suggested that we try her husband’s carrot cake. “It’s the best ever!” she said proudly, so I tried it and Steve also took a bite. Not the best ever. Not even close. “Doesn’t measure up,” I whispered, and he laughed, agreeing. I fear she knew not whereof she spoke, not realizing that my family claims the best carrot cake ever, based on a recipe I got from Carol Totty in 1965.
The preacher came toward us and I thought that we’d finally learn something about the congregation. He shook hands, said, “Glad to have you with us,” and moved on. Didn’t give us his name nor did he ask ours. I was disappointed. Usually you can count on the preacher, at least, to be talkative and friendly.
We both enjoyed singing the old familiar hymns of our childhoods—“Love Lifted Me,” “I Stand Amazed,” “Trust and Obey,” and such. The sermon was very acceptable, positive, and Bible-centered. We left after the last amen (an especially inspiring prayer) without anyone else of the 40 or so present speaking to us.
We were glad we went. And we are glad we worship where we do. We’re glad we worship with people who care about visitors whether they live nearby or are just passing through. Made me so grateful to God for Central!
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19