Friday, June 30, 2006

The elephant in the church

Laura and I believe that worship is a priority, even when we are on vacation. The same was true during our recent trip to Maine. We arrived at our resort Saturday evening and found a list of area churches. We decided on one that we felt safe with in regard to doctrine. For reasons that will soon become apparent, I will not give the name of the church. We arrived just minutes before the service began and the pastor, a young man, was standing at the door. He shook our hands and said “hello,” but that was it. It was obvious that we were visitors. After all, we were two of only 33 people that were in attendance. Yet, all we got from the pastor was a “hello.”

The service was pretty much what we expected. The pastor opened with announcements and then we stood and sang a hymn. The pastor then opened things up for prayer requests and praises. There was plenty of sharing. My favorite prayer request came from a mom who was sitting in between her husband and her two High School age daughters. She said, “Please pray that now that school is out, that my daughters will do something and not just sit around being lazy all day long.” My urge to laugh out loud was tamed as I glanced over and saw the very embarrassed look on these young girl’s faces.

Then came the sermon. The pastor preached from Genesis 49 which is the chapter in which Jacob gives his final words of blessing to his sons prior to his death. This chapter is filled with great truths that affect the entire rest of Israel’s history. From it, the pastor simply had a 3-point sermon. Dads need to communicate. Dads need to correct. Dads need to be compassionate. Now granted, these are 3 vital points, but these 3 needs of fatherhood have very little importance or relevance to this great passage.

But the most awkward time came when the service was completed. Other than one old lady that sat behind us, each of the other 30 people went about their Sunday ritual without ever saying one word to us. Even as I stood in the hallway waiting for my wife to use the restroom, several walked right passed me. Not only did they not say a word, they acted as if I wasn’t even there. We left by walking right by the pastor and this time he didn’t say one word to us. As we got into the car my wife said, “Wow, were we the elephant in the room or what?” She was talking about the saying which describes something very obvious that is ignored, like having an elephant in the room and pretending it’s not there.

That afternoon we went to Graft Notch State Park to sit by the river, relax, and enjoy the beauty of Maine. Guess who we ran into? It was the same pastor who was there with his family. I tried to strike up a conversation and even thanked him for a wonderful service and message (okay, I was stretching the “wonderful” part a bit). Once again I was left being the only participant in what was supposed to be a two-way conversation.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “What do visitors say, feel and think when they leave Grace Church?” Do you realize that on any given Sunday we have 20 or more first-time visitors? I wonder if they ever leave feeling like “the elephant in the church.”

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