Monday, February 23, 2009

Membership and Mini Marshmallows

My memory isn’t very reliable. On Sunday, as we took our seats at church, Ken pointed to our names in the tri-fold weekly flyer. Five people, including us, were being called up to the front to be accepted as official church members.

The pastor had asked us the previous week, and we’d accepted. Then I had completely forgotten. Fortunately it wasn’t one of those Sundays when I grabbed an extra 20 minutes of sleep and then ran into church with no makeup and no contact lenses, peering out from behind thick eyeglasses. I looked presentable.

In between the singing and the preaching, we went up in front of the congregation to receive special papers of welcome signed by both pastors, and some heartfelt hugs. It was very sweet. Being members is significant in that we are a) counted as church members for statistical purposes and b) we can vote in meetings. Most important, we have symbolically been accepted into the “church family”.

It’s an exciting time to be joining this church, as it (I guess I should get used to saying “we”) we are on the verge of potential major changes. The space is used by our multi-cultural Baptist group in the mornings, and by an English-speaking Korean church in the afternoons. As it stands, the Korean church has been renting the space, but there is now talk of merging the churches. This will create an opportunity for discussions relating to leadership, theology, finances, the structure of the service, etc. It’s not guaranteed that the merger will go ahead, but it will certainly make for an interesting exploration either way.

The Baptist church is top-heavy in terms of the average age of the congregation. There are many white-haired elders, and not enough youngsters to take their place as they grow too old to perform their roles. There are quite a few families with young children, but they can’t step into the roles on the board of directors and sub-committees to run the church; they’re too busy looking after their kids. The community lacks the 20-somethings and new, still-energetic empty-nesters who could contribute time to the cause. The Korean church has many more attendees in those age groups. We need their help. I don’t know what they hope to gain from us, but there must be something.

Immediately after the service we were invited to come to the annual financial meeting, which was taking place along with a potluck lunch in the downstairs gymnasium. We hadn’t signed up or brought food, but we were assured that there would be plenty to go around.

I love the very stereotypical W.A.S.P. comfort foods that show up on the potluck buffet, along with delicacies contributed by our browner* community members of various backgrounds. Lime Jell-O with canned tangerine slices sits next to curried goat. Carrot salad with fruity, pastel-coloured mini-marshmallows on top accompanies chicken teriyaki. Potluck is the absolute best!

Of course the call went out for volunteers to help the church, and Ken and I stepped up. Apparently there are many positions to be filled, and the woman in charge wants to think about where she can use us most. She mentioned that the church is looking to train more deacons. I don’t even fully understand what a deacon is, but the title “deacon” sounds totally cool, so I’ll be looking into that. Deacon Spark – doesn’t that have a ring to it?

* I have had several friends of various or mixed ethnic backgrounds who refer to themselves as “brown”. I hope no one takes offense at the term.


Jenski said...

Sounds like a wonderful community you have found!

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Awesome... I really needed to have a friend in the higher ups of a church. Sooooooo can you put a good word in for me with God. I mean I don't see eye to eye with God on a lot of things, but figure maybe if you put in your two cents I'll get cut a break.

Scarlet said...

Funny how I show up here for some church chat after attending church for the first time in two years yesterday.

Deacon sounds cool...let us know what it's all about.

I need to get with the God program again. It's a long road back.

LL Cool Joe said...

I've attended the same Baptist Church for over 25 years. I became a member at the same time I was baptized, in my 20's. My partner preaches sometimes, both our kids go to Sunday school.

We have Elders rather than Deacons, but they basically do the same thing.

What you call a Potluck Buffet, we call a "Bring And Share lunch". I try to avoid those. :D

I've never quite fitted into the church I have to say, even though I've gone there for years, but my relationship is with God, not really the people that worship there too.

It's a really lively place though, with a real mix of ages and a great music group and preacher too.

It sounds like you will really enjoy the fellowship you get at your church, and I hope that your gifts are used well within it. :)

Karen said...

At least in the Catholic church the Deacon is a lay person who has some of the "powers" and responsibilites of a the clergy. He can read the gospel, perform certain sacraments, etc...everything but concerate the host and wine.

Cool stuff. I am glad you found your niche.

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: It is. The people are almost all incredibly warm and friendly. It's also a very diverse group, which makes me feel comfortable because there's no "normal" to try to fit in with.

Ron: I wouldn't say that I have any special connection with God that others don't have, but I'd be more than happy to put in a good word for you. In fact, I do so from time to time already. :-)

Scarlet: Paradoxically it can be a long road and a short road at the same time, I think. God is never far from us - it's just a matter of us being able to clear away the obstacles between us and Him. That's the tough part, but then sometimes it all falls away and surprisingly he's right there beside you, and has been all along.

LL Cool Joe: Of course - I can't imagine that you would attend a church that didn't offer lively music! ;-) I feel the same way; that going to church is primarily about me connecting with God, and secondarily about me connecting with the community. Which makes it OK that I don't agree 100% with all of them about stuff. Maybe that's the point.

Karen: Interesting! Thanks for the explanation. I could have just Googled the word, but I thought it would be more fun to see how people defined it for me in the comments.

SoMi's Nilsa said...

As a follower of your blog, it is very evident the importance your newfound religion takes in your life. I think this is a logical and great next step - to take a larger role in your church as it explores possible change. Awesome.

Also, my mother-in-law's apple taffy salad is the best. Absolute best!

unsigned said...

God Bless and pass the potato salad.

darcknyt said...

Congratulations on being accepted into the community!

jameil1922 said...

deacon spark sounds hilarious. jumping right in to volunteer sounds great! i always like to do that when i join a church, too. now i just need to find one!!

Kate said...

I worked for the church for ten years and it's always heart warming to see people like yourself so excited about your membership. Most people just join so they can get married or get their kid baptized, but every once in awhile, you'll find someone truly committed who wants something out of their church family and to give. It's wonderful, really.

With that said, I will never ever join a church again - working for them killed my soul.

Sparkling Red said...

Nilsa: Apple taffy salad? I've never heard of such a thing, but I'm intrigued. That's an idea that has a lot of potential.

Unsigned: *passes the potato salad*

Darcknyt: Thank you! :-)

Jameil: You're churchless? That surprises me. You were so into your church before you went off to school. Have you been church-shopping?

Kate: Really? Ten years of service, and then it killed your soul. I'm curious to know more. Religion has a lot of power - to do good things, and to do terrible things. I expect at some point someone within my church will probably hurt me badly, because I go in there with such a vulnerable, open heart. Everyone has a dark side.

Aurora said...

How nice to have a new family!
DO you know any of the Korean members? it seems strange that two tight-knit communities should share a building and not know each other.

Sparkling Red said...

Aurora: I don't personally know them yet. We use the space at different times of day, and it's set up so that there's no overlap on purpose, so that we don't run into conflicts. But the musical worship for our service is sometimes performed by young Korean guys and gals from the other church, and the leadership of the two churches has been spending time together. The Korean kids really make good music. I always enjoy the singing worship when they're there.

sallymandy said...

Best wishes to you in your church membership. I know what a comfort a church community can be. I'm not currently with one but have another fellowship that means a great deal.

p.s. I'm posting that butternut squash enchilada recipe soon. Thanks for visiting!