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Posts Tagged ‘country churches’

Sherrylee and I are on a 40th Anniversary vacation road trip!  And I want you to come along with us, so I think I will include regular updates on our road trip, starting with Friday, April 9.

Saturday, we flew in from Omaha on an earlier flight, so we decided to just hit the road and go until about 10pm—got as far as Wichita Falls!

Sunday, we had a 12-hour trip in front of us, so it was very tempting not to stop for church. We drove away from Wichita Falls, thinking that we would do a Rick Atchley podcast in the car and break bread together (seriously) at Crackerbarrel along the way—BUT, about 10:15, we were driving through these very dry, little West Texas towns when Sherry said, “Let’s stop at the next church we see!”  I agreed and within 60 seconds we saw a sign for the Church of Christ in Chillicothe, Texas, so we decided to stop there.

I asked for directions at a convenience store and a woman offered to guide us to the church, for which we were grateful. (Interestingly enough, she later appeared at church—I don’t think she had been planning to go—at least she didn’t say she was going at the store—so maybe we helped encourage her to go!)

We walked into the Bible study—and there were six people there! The preacher was leading the study of the Lord’s Prayer. I noticed on their Attendance sign—you know the one that says “This Sunday”, Last Sunday, and Offering in black letters that slide on and off—that the attendance last week was 41.

I don’t believe there are even six degrees of separation in our church tribe! Here we were 200 miles away from home, having Bible study with six complete strangers, and would you believe that as we were visiting after the class—you don’t slip in without being seen in  churches like this!—one of the women there had attended church for many years with Sherrylee’s sister and brother-in-law in Arlington, Texas, and knew them well.

The auditorium was built for 200, so nobody sat on the first 7 or 8 rows except the two men who would later serve communion.  You could tell they were the communion servers because they were dressed in gray suits and ties and their best boots.

An elder (not an Elder anymore because the other Elder had died) made announcements that two sisters 91 and 94 years old had been visited and were doing well. By the way, there would be a potluck next Sunday to celebrate Sister ____’s 90th birthday.  Are you getting the picture?  But to be fair, at least two families with children showed up for worship—at least one set were great-grandchildren, if I observed correctly—and a lot of the people were kin!

We sang from songbooks—nothing more electronic than the microphone in sight. All the men present served communion, including the preacher!  The prayers were of the “guide, guard, and direct us” variety.  Psalm 100 was the text for the sermon which was an excellent exhortation to worship the Lord meaningfully, to “shout to the Lord”!  I couldn’t imagine anyone shouting in this crowd—but we did do a responsive reading as a trial run.

I was glad we were there! It reminded me that perseverance takes many forms, but they lead to godliness. Most of these saints had been faithful for a long lifetime! Sure their “liturgy” was often in the same language of their grandparents—but so are the liturgies of high churches that are in such vogue now! I don’t doubt their prayers of concern for the “sick and afflicted” were as heartfelt as those in more post-modern words.

They sang, they broke the bread and drank the cup and remembered Christ!  They were VERY friendly and concerned about their congregation.  Their preacher is moving in two weeks, so they are looking for someone retired because they can’t offer full support. They do have a parsonage.

But they also would really like to have a bi-lingual retiree to preach for them! They want to reach out to the growing Hispanic population.  This is a mission-minded church!!

I’m grateful for every little struggling group of Christians, whether they are in houses or 1950’s church buildings, whether they use praise songs written in this millennium or the last, whether they create their own liturgy each week or use more comfortable words of saints before them. I’m thankful for their faithful witness, for their benevolence—whether they have a program or just call it being a neighbor!

I’m so glad we went to church in Chillicothe, Texas!

 

 

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