The first of 52 churches was a small Baptist-affiliated assembly. With 40 to 45 normally in attendance, this Sunday saw only one-third that number. The service was not unlike some of the churches my wife attended in her youth, so she felt comfortable and was familiar with their format.
The people were friendly and — despite a bit of awkwardness when “first-time visitors” were asked to raise their hands — I felt an unexplainable contentment there, a peace that perhaps could best be attributed to God being present.
There was nothing remarkable to report about the service — a few old-time hymns with piano accompaniment, sharing of prayer requests, an offering, a message, and a low-key alter call — but the people made the difference. They just seemed comfortable with each other, liking and accepting one another. There was no pretense in their actions or words, just nice folks who seemed real. It was like family, good family.
The hour and a half service was mostly preaching, which had the reoccurring themes of Jesus, faith, and heaven. (Our future in heaven was also a theme of several of the hymns). In a side note, the pastor remarked that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible; we need to accept them by faith, know them, claim them, and believe them. He also mentioned Chrislam, a term we were unfamiliar with, which sent me to Wikipedia to learn more when I got home.
At the service’s conclusion, the people lingered to chat; no one rushed out the door. Though our stomachs told us it was past time to eat, we tarried as well. Many sincerely thanked us for visiting and invited us to come again, but did so without being pushy or making us feel cornered.
Church #1 was a friendly church with a homey feel.