When we first moved to Maine in the 90s, we were a little disappointed in the meager selection of churches - or rather, of church types. The vast majority of the churches we visited were very traditional and a bit old fashioned.
Understand that we had come from San Diego where we'd help start a surfer church. The services were held in a Middle School auditorium that was just a mile or so from Pacific Beach. Baptisms were done in the ocean or the bay. Church services were held ON the beach once a month. The pastor, as well as most of the people in the church were avid surfers. The rest of us were just looking for a fresh, non-judgmental church that had solid teaching, but wasn't hung up on how people dressed or what their past looked like. Plus, the church had a band, and the music was amazing. We sang Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith songs. In a word, it was COOL.
It was also very California - and what was I thinking, hoping that we'd find the same thing here in Maine? It seemed all the churches here, though adorable, with their tall white steeples, charming pews and stained glass windows, were very traditional. Meaning, stuffy and boring; they reminded me of the type of church my GRANDMOTHER would enjoy.
But we wanted to go to church and wanted our children to grow up going to church. We wanted to worship God, but we preferred to do it with like-minded people. Could we find such people somewhere under those pretty, white steeples? We visited several and felt like we were the youngest people there by about 40 years.
And then finally, we found one that really surprised us. It had a white, pointed steeple, it had pews, and it had a stained glass window. But it also had a very diverse crowd that defied the image one might assume from the view of the outside. The first day we were there, people of all ages came up to us to welcome us, shake our hands, and learn our names. On that same first day, the pastor and his wife invited us to their home for lunch. The next week, people remembered us and seemed genuinely glad that we had returned.
Now, I'm generally a bit cynical and suspicious, and if someone told me this story, my first thought would be - CULT!! But this wasn't that. This is a church full of warm, kind people who genuinely like each other and genuinely want outsiders to feel like one of the family.
I know this because all these years later, we still see the same thing happening. These people love one another, and they still welcome visitors with open arms. No, they don't have much of a band, but they have some great singers, and a pastor who teaches the truth. What more could anyone ask for in a church?
I am thankful for our church and the people there who are not just fellow church-goers. They are family.
Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes