By the time I reached 8th grade my parents were getting the vibe that it was time to move on from the episcopal church. They say that one of the biggest reasons was because of me. They wanted to see me in a youth group of teenagers which was non existant where we were. During this time of decision for my parents we visited a new church. There were two methodist congregations in Salem at that time and both were pastored by the same person. We visited one of those congregations and the only thing I remember was the pastor. He reminded me of George Bush, Sr. Not the actual George Bush but the one played by Dana Carvey on saturday night live. This guy was so animated! Of course in my 13 year old attitude I thought to myself how much of dork he was. It was this same man who's leadership and friendship was one of the most influential in my life. This fool in my eyes was God's instrument used to change the bratty teenager that I was.
Between our first and second visit the two congregations merged and began having all their services at the church we did not visit. We visited this newly merged church again and I remember it quite well. Before the service as my family and I were getting ready I did something to get my parents upset with me. They did the parent thing and grounded me or something and so I was in a horrible mood. I pouted all the way there and all the way through the service. I remember I would catch myself not pouting and then intentionally make myself pout. Service ended and youth group was right after it. My parents asked me if I would like to go. They made me go to church but I think the option was open whether I wanted to go to youth group or not. I noticed some friends from school and even my neighborhood were a part of this group so naturally I said yes and went. This again was a life changing event. That youth group leader was incredibly influential and dear to my heart. I had a genuine good time and was even invited to a weekend get away to someone's cabin. My parents took all this involvement of mine as a sign that this was where they were supposed to be.
This congregation was not your average new england methodist church. There was organ music and guitar music. Hymnals and praise and worship stuff. Liturgy and spontaneity. I was also noticing a lot more animated people doing a lot more animated stuff, like raising hands and randomly praying in the middle of service or saying "amen!". This was my first exposure to pentecostalism. I remember some friends of mine who visited the church were talking about this peculiar form of worship. This guy complained "Why do they have to act like they're having an orgasm when they pray?!". This got my attention not only because he said the "O" word in church but because I noticed I was at odds with him. I noticed that even though I wasn't an animated or emotional person I found myself being open to this phenomenon or in christianese "open to the holy spirit".
This group of methodists was a very diverse one. Diverse in personality and age.
This diversity showed me that God the holy spirit moved in and through people of different temperments so I didn't necassarily have to act like someone who wasn't me in order to relate to God in this passionate way, just be myself. Many of these people are my family and will always be family despite my departure.
I believe it was continued exposure to the working and moving of the holy spirit through the preaching, worship and relationships which was key to my spiritual growth. Even though my parents made me go to church and I wasn't there emotionally, mentally and even spiritually my sitting there in the pew, observing all that was going on, I eventually found myself taking part in it here and there.
that is just a tiny tiny taste of my methodist days.
5 weeks ago