This past Sunday I had the interesting experience of attending my grandmother’s church. She’s Apostolic Christian / Nazarene.
I first had to keep in mind the dress code for my grandmother’s church. Women cannot wear pants or jewelry, and hair should be up for starters. So I wore a below-knee skirt, a button blouse, and a cardigan. I made sure to remove my earrings. I just pulled my hair back into a barrette. I suppose I should have worn a scarf over my hair, but I didn’t and I assumed that I would be allowed since I’m considered a visitor and non-member. No one commented on my lack of head covering so I was okay.
What probably struck me the oddest about the service was that there is no liturgy. I’m VERY used to liturgy, which I find very beautiful, so to not have a liturgy took a bit of getting used to.
Also, there is absolutely no musical accompaniment for the songs. It’s A Capella. I’m not too lyrically gifted so I didn’t sing too loudly 😛
Women and men do not sit together. Facing the pulpit, the men sit on the left and the women on the right.
The preachers are not paid at all. It’s not a career, like what many other churches do. The preachers are elders, who can only be men.
My grandmother’s congregation still has a large Serbian community, so the service is in both English and Serbian. In fact, the songs are sung in English and Serbian as the hymnals exist in both languages.
The service proceeded as follows (the end may actually be a bit out of order as I’ve already forgotten parts of the service by Tues night; I know, my memory is cruddy):
1) Sing a hymn, as suggested by an elder.
2) Kneel for a prayer in English, led by another elder.
3) Everyone reads along to the day’s passage; it happened to be 1 John, chapter 3, in English. (Serbians have their Serbian Bibles; a Serbian elder will announce the reading so that they follow along as well.)
4) One elder gives the sermon in English. He has no notes or drafts to read from; it’s all from his spirit. I thought it was a good sermon.
5) Another hymn is suggested and sung.
6) The Serbian elder then gives his sermon.
7) Kneel for another prayer.
8) Another hymn.
9) An exhortation is said to conclude the service.
It was a funny thing for me to notice that there are no printed bulletins of the service a this church, so you have to actually open your Bible and hymnal for the passages and songs. It’s funny because at my church we have a worship book and Bible in our pews but everything is printed out in booklets EVERY SUNDAY, so that there is rarely a need for the worship book (maybe for a song or two) and never a need for the Bible. It’s such a terrible waste of paper but we supposedly do this to be “visitor friendly” because they may not know how to read/use the worship book. It’s so wonderful to read directly from the Bible and hymnal!
The church members were nice to me. Many greeted me, shook my hand, and said it was nice to finally see Suzie’s granddaughter. I haven’t much experienced what it’s like to be a visitor to a church, so it was sort of new to be treated like a visitor.
I was surprised for some reason that there’s a MUCH bigger young adult presence at this church (considering how conservative it is), much more than what’s at mine. I feel like the only active member of my church between the ages of 18 and 35, which oftentimes has me feeling lonely and discourages me from being involved in many church activities. I didn’t get a chance to talk to any young women at this church but it was still nice to see that they have a healthy young population.
My overall thoughts: I actually really enjoyed it. I loved the actual usage of the Bibles and hymnals. I enjoyed the plainness of the design of the sanctuary, so there weren’t many distractions. It was the first time I had ever knelt during a church service for prayer, but I really liked it. It was good to experience a different church, as I’ve only really known mine for nearly 17 years.
Would I attend my grandmother’s church again? I think so. She doesn’t go to church every Sunday because it’s far away, but if she needs a driver then I will go with her.
Am I thinking of joining her church? Heh. I somehow don’t think it’s the fit for me, so I don’t think so. For the time being I will be happy enough being a visitor.
I’m thinking of checking some other churches out soon. Perhaps it’ll next be a Catholic Mass, since it’s closest to what I know as a Lutheran. If I ever visit other churches in the future, I will do my best to reflect on them here.