Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Whole Church, whole gospel, whole world

The Church. The called-out ones.

Church is Music to my Ears

One of my most delightful memories is being admitted into the Junior Choir as a 5 year old, simply because I could read.  Our choir director would hand out lemon wedges for us to suck on, "to clear the voice".  Church meant music, singing, gowns, pomp and circumstance.  To this day, the sound of a good choir brings tears to my eyes.  I enjoy visiting our local United Church - the red carpet, beautiful pews, carved wooden railings, large balconies - all of these things stir my memories of a happy childhood.

Church is Childhood Memories

Another church of my childhood, St. James Anglican Church of Lac Beauport, Quebec, was built in 1890.  It was a place that was home to me when I was a child.  It was a place of weddings, of family gatherings, of holiness and the Book of Common Prayer.  It smelled of old wood and furnishings.  Hymn books were donated by my grandparents in memory of my uncle, Ray Matthews, who served and died as a pilot in the RCAF.

Church is a Place of Salvation

As a young wife and mother, I had plenty of questions about God and Eternity and cults and truth.  A friend took me to Erindale Bible Chapel to hear Helen Gillard speak about Christmas.  I peppered her with questions and she led me to the Lord.  That is the one and only time I ever visited Erindale Bible Chapel.  It is a special place for me, for it is where my journey as an exulting Christian began.

Church is Baptism and Discipleship

Emmanuel Baptist Church in Milton, Ontario, was the church where I first saw Christians take their Bibles to church.  They opened them and followed along as the Pastor preached his sermon.  They looked into Scripture during Sunday School class!  It was at Emmanuel that we were challenged and strengthened in our faith.  It was there that we were baptized as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Church is Rules and Regulations

The next church we attended was Velvet Hills Baptist Church in the Waterloo area.  It was at that church that we learned about division, discord among the brethren, toxic leadership, and authoritarian control.  Our daughter was enrolled in the Christian School at the church, and our lives revolved around meetings and activities related to the church.  There was no time for visiting family outside the church, and if we did so, we needed permission.  There was a "standard sheet" to sign, and many rules to follow.  We were in church on Sunday morning for Sunday School, then worship service; Sunday afternoon for choir practice; Sunday evening for another sermon; Tuesday for Prayer Meeting, Thursday for Soul winning, and Saturday morning for bus ministry.  We were slaves, and we loved it!  When the church split, we were devastated, thinking that there was no other valid church in the area.  They were the cream of the crop!  I look back and see that the Lord set us free.  It's not surprising to me that there no longer is a Velvet Hills Baptist Church.

Church is Compassion

Woodside Bible Fellowship in Elmira took us in when we were broken, bleeding, and wounded.  They showed compassion in so many ways, welcoming us to Bible Studies and surprising us with gifts of food and Christmas presents.  We were accepted and loved, even when we were unlovely.  We look back with thankfulness for a time of healing and rest.

Church is Community

We then attended two churches in the community in which we lived and raised our family.  We developed friendships and delighted in serving others with the gifts God has given us.  I'll have more to say about this in another post.

The point is, all of those churches were not the buildings - they were the people God sent into our lives to love us, to point us to Christ, to walk with us on the way, to challenge us and to bless us.  

It's wonderful to know that we are a part of the Body of Christ, that we are joined to other believers in the great communion of saints.  We are called to love God, and love our neighbour.  This starts with the church.