Back in November, we attended a Thanksgiving Community Service held at a local church in Manteo.
Sarah and I made our way into the back of the jam packed sanctuary and wedged ourselves into the few remaining seats as Steve went and joined the other participating pastors. I stuffed my coat under the chair, settled my Mom Purse at my feet and opened the bulletin to see what was in store.
After four seconds of a quick and professional perusal of the line up, my first thought was, “Oh boy. This looks like a sure fire recipe for an ecclesiastical disaster.”
Here were the ingredients:
- A Baptist church in a small Southern town.
- A couple of funky rappers.
- A Southern gospel quartet.
- A song out of the hymnal.
- A group of diverse denominations crowded into one room.
- Various racial backgrounds.
- Teenagers. Elderly people. Kids.
- A featured preacher with spikey hair and multitudinous tattoos.
- A passel of pastors from wildly differing theological backgrounds and worship styles.
I thought, “This ain’t gonna be pretty. The silver haired saints are going to frown at the rappers and the funky young folks are going to frown at the Southern gospel group. People are going to be offended on every side and they’re all going to go home even more convinced than ever that their church is the only one doing it right. “
I love variety in worship, preaching, and music so I personally was thrilled with what was ahead. But I was a little anxious about how the diverse elements in that room were going to be received.
After the welcome by the host pastor, the Call To Worship was announced. But this was not like any Call to Worship most of the folks in the pews were used to. No sirree, this was different altogether.
As these gentlemen performed a really cool rap tune with lyrics glorifying God, I looked around the room for any burgeoning signs of alarm. There were none.
The younger crowd was of course pumped. The older folks weren’t exactly pumped but they were nodding their heads sedately. Most importantly, no one got up and stomped out of the room in a show of self righteous indignation at having that kind of music in a worship service.
Then it was time for congregational singing. The music director invited us all to stand up, take our our hymnals and sing How Great Thou Art. And we did.
The older folks smiled broadly and sang loudly. This was their kind of music.
And the younger folks? They held the hymnals, and sang their hearts out. It wasn’t their kind of music but it was their kind of message.
Then the Southern gospel quartet did a couple numbers and even though Southern gospel fans are not a huge part of the nation’s demographic, they got a resounding round of applause when they were done—from oldsters and youngsters alike. From rappers and hymn-lovers alike.
And then it was time for the message.
To people used to a pastor in a robe, or at least a suit and a tie, the appearance of this fella on the stage elicited a small murmur of whispered exclamations. (Note: these pictures are from the church’s FB page; I didn’t have any photos of my own.)
Pastor Frank Losson, pastor of The Source, was not your typical preacher.
He doesn’t pastor a typical church.
But when he got up during that Community Service and spoke to a mixed group from every age group and background? Well, he was accepted. He was applauded. He was amen’d.
Even though he looked different and sounded different and talked different, he was passionate about his message, articulate about what he believed in, and transparent about his journey of faith.
Sitting in the back gave me a good view of the place and I can honestly say that as he preached, I did not see even one single frowny face. On the contrary, the whole room was one big smile, one big community of believers who had gathered together to put action to the words, “They will know you are Christians by your love.”
People who don’t attend church very much often say that all Christians do is fight with each other; that all churches do is compete with each other for money and for members. And unfortunately, in some cases, that is true.
But on that November night, in our village by the sea, I saw Christians gathered together under one flag, under one banner. They respected and they honored singers and preachers who were light years away from them in their style of worship, music, and communication. But they didn’t let it matter. I saw a whole crowd of people united in one huge truth which is this, “The methods may change but the Message remains the same.”
I heard and saw and felt the power of the Message, even as I happily crossed off the last of the ingredients of disaster from my mental list.
The church did good that night. And I believe God was smiling.
I know I sure was.