Heaven Can Wait. I’ve Still Got Research To Do

Some of you have managed to make it through life as the members of the same church for your entire lives. If not the same building, the same denomination or sect. Me?  I’ve been around just a bit.

I started the journey as  a little boy in the Latin Church known as Roman Catholic to the rest of you. I don’t remember much of the pre Vatican II  church but I do remember the Latin a bit. Hey, that’s just because I’m a linguist and can’t help it.

My youth, until college, was spent in a variety of parishes around Saint Paul, Minnesota. It wasn’t that we were gadflies, because we did have a home parish, but because life intrudes and devout Catholics are obligated to attend mass each week. So, in the era before the internet (yes, I am that old) we had a collection of weekly bulletins/mass schedules from a dozen churches around the metro. If I remember correctly, some of the bigger churches had Yellow Pages ads with the schedule. So, if Sunday we were going to be on the road, or a big snow storm was coming, we’d hit Saturday night mass at another church if we were too late for our home parish. Same for Sunday: we missed church because of whatever, so we’d go somewhere that had an evening mass. (I have to confess, nothing is more depressing to a kid than Sunday night mass: you missed Disney and all the good stuff on Sunday night television. It is also when I learned to loathe “The Guitar Mass.”)

I walked away from God, and the church, at least part time when I went to college, and didn’t go back until I was in my forties. I guess I was too smart for all that nonsense. But I was wrong: it’s not nonsense. I discovered that God did love me and I needed to be there to talk to him.

So, where did I go?  I went back to God via a COGIC church. Man, about as far from Catholicism as you can get!  God really pulled me in to his arms there, we both got baptized again, and it was a big change being in a small predominantly black church after white city/suburban churches as a kid. Stayed there a few years until it just didn’t feel right anymore. It was a very small church, just 40 people on a busy Sunday.

Then we went shopping. 

After a year of bouncing around, we settled on Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Missionary Baptists, think of the church scene in The Blues Brothers. Yeah, that kind of kinetic, Motown meets Jesus each week. (Warning: a bit of mild profanity in this clip.)

But, when we left Saint Paul to move to Florida, we left behind a big congregation of people we loved. It still hurts a bit, but we have great memories. (Yes, things do get that wild/good on occasion. That ecstatic form of worship is know as “Falling out” by the congregants. And, lest you think I’m making it up, I’d like you to watch a movie called “A Man Called Jon” – it happens to white guys as well!)

Thus the question: what kind of church now?

Well, this is what I wore for sunrise service on Easter:

Yes, I have a cowboy hat. I’ve had one for 40 years. I love them, and they keep my bald head from baking.

Here’s our choir on Easter:

There is a small, Independent Baptist church less than 2 miles from my house. As a matter of fact, when I roar past the church on the way home, I know it’s almost time to put on my blinkers for the turn.

Now, before I say the next bit, I want to emphasize that it is with love and great affection for the pastor and the congregation. I mean no disrespect in any way. 

This church is more like what you would see in a movie about a congregation in 1947 in the rural south than the big urban church we just left. One piano, one guitar, and occasionally a teenage girl learning the dulcimer. The choir is about 40% of the congregation, and the hymnal was printed before I was born. 

It is God’s house. And they loved us from the minute we walked in the door. I like the piano, but do miss the bass, drums, and 40 person choir in robes at Shiloh. I sing louder now, because they need my voice. Now that I’ve retired, I’m able to go to Bible study each week. We all had breakfast on Easter after the service in the school room next door. 

We will know everyone’s name very soon. 

The pastor preaches well. It’s a good message. I pray hard when we bow our heads for sick members of the congregation. 

Have I come full circle in worship? Nah. There’s probably an obscure chapter left for me. But for right now these folks are family and it’s a blessing to be 2 minutes away from the church.

What a road I’ve travelled. I hope it’s the Highway to Heaven. I liked that show.

 

Joseph Courtemanche

About Joseph Courtemanche

I'm a conservative Christian author who's been happily married for over 30 years. I am a Veteran of the United States Navy, Naval Security Group. I speak a few languages, I have an absurd sense of humor and I'm proud to be an American.

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