I’m a non-fiction writer at heart but last week, while working on my new book, I wrote my first fiction. The chapter is called Churchy Words. The words that throw non- or new Christians for a loop. I was visualizing a person walking into a church for the first time and what might happen. Here is my first story and more will follow. If you have one, will you write to me? I’d love to include it in my new book, Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments.
Imagine you are attending church for the first time in your life. You walk in the doors of a nearby church and are greeted freely by someone handing you some paper. They ask if you are new and what your name is and all you want to know is where the show is taking place.
You wander rather aimlessly following voices or music, hoping you will know what to do when you arrive in this place. You sit, read the paper you were given, that you realize later is called a bulletin. You see numbers, names, topics, lists of meetings, and what is called something like Order of Service. The music begins again and everyone stands—so you do, too. You feel self conscious and hope you figure out what is happening.
You sing along, after you found the hymnal or song book, or you strain to read the screen at the front of the room. After all, you sat in the very back because you wanted to come in and leave unnoticed.
Now everyone is lowering their heads while one person talks. Everyone sits and so do you.
It goes on like this for a little while and just when you are getting the hang of it, something changes. What is that thing all those men are passing down the rows of people? It looks like food. You think it’s odd to feed people in this manner. You quickly look at the bulletin to see it’s called the Lord’s Supper.
Now you’re really panicky. What in the world is that? And what do you do? Then you notice someone next to you gently pokes your arm and you look at them. He is pointing to some words in his bulletin and you scan it fast. The man is coming closer to your row. Sweat breaks out on your forehead and you feel dizzy. As you scan the stranger’s bulletin where he is pointing, you sigh with relief. You have heard of communion but not the Lord’s Supper.
The stranger whispers close to your ear, “If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you are welcome to take part in this meal.” Meal? The cup is so tiny and the bread is being broken into small pieces by every person. You smile at the stranger and try to catch your breath.
Here it comes; a plate with bread. Your hands shake as you take it and something makes you think, “I think I’ll pass,” and you give it to the stranger next to you. Here comes a metal dish with tiny cups of what looks like grape juice in it. The plate rattles as you take it and you think everyone is looking right at you. The man who handed the plate to you gently touches your shoulder and whispers, “My name is Jim. I’ll explain this to you later. Pass it on.” He smiles like he knows your thoughts. You nod a thank you and pass the plate. You notice your hand is no longer shaking. Jim moves to the next row. After this is completed, Jim comes back to you and asks the stranger next to you to move over, and he does. Now Jim is sitting on your left where the stranger had been.
He doesn’t say a word but quietly guides you through the rest of the service with a nod or a smile and uses his pen to draw arrows and circle where they are in the service. You breathe easier, look at Jim and smile. You think he looks familiar somehow. You shake your head and listen to what the man is saying in what is called a sermon.
People are opening books when the man up front asks them to “turn to a book in their Bibles.” You figure they each have his or her own Bibles and are following along. You have heard about Bibles but never really saw one to open and read.
Here they go standing again and singing. Some people are holding their hands in the air. Are they asking questions or trying to get someone’s attention? It’s so foreign to you. But for some reason, it feels good. These people seem happy, even content. Someone behind you sure can’t sing but they are doing it with gusto.
Now everyone is hugging and talking. It must be over? Just when you think, “What now?” Jim takes your hand and gives his name again. He doesn’t ask you anything at all but you find yourself giving your name and smiling. You start talking like you’ve know Jim for years and you realize the relief you are feeling because you feel connected somehow. This man is nice and not pushy; even accepting. He knows you are new, certainly. Now you are the stranger.
Jim asks if you have a few minutes and you say you do. “I’d like to introduce you to my family. This is my wife, Mary, and my daughter Libby and her son, Tony.” You shake hands with each and notice they are all smiling and that Tony is looking up at you. You look at the boy and smile. He says, “Hey mister, you’re new, aren’t you?” He doesn’t wait for an answer and adds, “I hate being new. I never know what to do.” You smile again and reply, “Yes, I’m new. Never been in a church before but I’ve driven by this church for months and decided to visit.”
Jim and Mary give each other a look and Mary says, “We’re going to lunch at the place down the road. We’d love to have you come as our guest. I won’t take no for an answer, unless you need to be somewhere else.” You hesitate and Tony says, “They have great cheeseburgers. Do you play baseball? Our team is undefeated so far.” You are completely caught by surprise because you played in Little League as a boy. “Tony, will you tell me about it if I go to lunch?” He nods and smiles. You thank them for the invite and you follow them to the restaurant.