Monday, March 2, 2009

The Gathering and Faith Christian Fellowship

We're back from our trip to Portland (more on that later), and I have reports to give on our last two church visits (I'm processing my experiences as a long-time believer, first-time visitor to local churches through the forum of this blog). It's still weird to go to any church but Fair Oaks, but I have enjoyed seeing God work through my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the area.

Because we planned to leave for Portland first thing Sunday morning, we found a church with a Saturday evening service to attend before we left (thanks Joy for the recommendation!).

The Community Presbyterian Church in Danville recently combined a Saturday service with a church plant, which now meets as "The Gathering" in their multi-purpose room. They've only been meeting about two months, but there were probably a couple hundred people gathered together.

Although the meeting room was basically a large gym, it was obviously well and thoughtfully designed for worship gatherings. Chairs were set up in a horse-shoe around a center stage, enhancing the feel of 'gathering' in community. Curtains behind the stage made a tasteful backdrop as well as providing great acoustics for the worship band (Who expects great sound quality in a gym? I'm telling you, it's possible). Children and youth all had programs running during the meeting time.

The music and speaking were very good, though they felt a bit 'slick' for my tastes. The worship leader made a couple of bizarre jokes that, while not necessarily inappropriate, were distracting from the purpose of worshipping the Lord.

My favorite thing about The Gathering was their clear intention to build community. Part of their meeting was devoted to a 'coffee-break' time to get up, stretch, and connect with other worshippers while grabbing a beverage or snack. And more significantly, they have set their meeting time at 5:00 pm so that people can go straight from the meeting to having dinner together. On the evening we visited, the pastor had set up with a local Italian restaurant to provide coupons for the whole congregation, with the intention of all going out to eat together afterward! Good stuff.

This past Sunday, we headed just down the street to visit Faith Christian Fellowship. We picked an unusual morning to visit, however, due to the Church Without Shoes campaign. (I was surprised to learn, after leaving Fair Oaks, that there are about thirty-five other churches/ministries in the area which have united for mutual focus on spiritual encouragement and devotion; these include the i-lent project, a community-wide celebration of communion, corporate prayer, and this past Sunday, a pastor swap.)

We happened to visit on the week of the Pastor swap, so we were able to enjoy the worship of Faith Christian Fellowship while learning from the teaching of Pastor Russell Belmont of Calvary Baptist Church in Concord.

The church was beautiful, with a nice 'churchy' feel: pews, stained glass, pipe organ. This did not lend a stuffy atmosphere though, because the service was so welcoming and inclusive. I loved seeing multiple youth as part of the worship team (even though the rest of the youth group was on a winter ski trip). There was a special-needs fellowship group listed in the bulletin, a first in my experience. Following the service, a luncheon was held, though we did not attend.

I can't say how much I appreciated the teaching of the visiting pastor. It has been months since I've experienced teaching that has really touched me, where I felt God speaking to me through His word. There was a moment, a short but beautiful moment, in which my heart leapt and I felt a glimmer of hope for my belief in 'church'.

I guess we'll be putting Calvary Baptist on our list of churches to attend in our future!

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