We have spent the last three Sundays attending different churches in the area. One was small, and the other two fairly large. They were also different campuses of the same church, so had that added factor as well. It's been interesting.
The smallest church we've visited so far was also the friendliest. Friendly as in, people coming up and introducing themselves, telling you how glad they were to see you, asking if you had questions, etc. etc. It was also small enough that we caused a bit of a stir when we arrived. We usually cause a bit of a stir, because we are not your typical family, so we are used to that. The small church also managed to avoid falling into the 'desperate for members' feeling, which you can sometimes get when new people walk into a smaller church.
The two satellites of the larger church did not have the same welcoming atmosphere as the smaller church. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker in my book, because of where we came from. The church we just moved away from also has struggles in the welcoming department. It is always an ongoing discussion regarding what to do about it. I think it is a matter of size.
With the smaller church, everyone is well aware of who attends that church and who doesn't. It is obvious when a new person arrives, and it is also obvious if no one is welcoming that person. No one can say to themselves, "someone else will do it" because it is clear that welcoming people is everyone's job.
With a larger church, it becomes a little tougher. People see someone they don't know, and don't say anything, for a couple of reasons. The first is that people are afraid that their welcome will be mis-interpreted. They think, "What if that person I don't know has actually gone to this church for 20 years?" So to avoid potential embarrassment, they don't say anything. Or they think, "I haven't gone to this church for very long, I shouldn't be the one to welcome someone. I think that must be someone else's job." They don't feel a sense of ownership in their own church, and so they don't say anything.
How much better it would be if, even in a larger church, everyone introduced themselves to someone they didn't know every single week. You could say, "Hi, my name is _____. I don't think we've met. How long have you been attending here." The other person might say 20 years, or they might say this is their first Sunday. That's great. You've either met someone you should know, or you can welcome a stranger. You win either way.
A plus from all three churches is that our admittedly unique family has caused no outrageous comments. The most we've heard is a couple of people at different churches saying how wonderful it was that we had so many children. This is a good thing in my book.
One other thing I have noticed as we have been going to different churches, and here I want to ask for my reader's experiences. In our church we just moved away from, every week there was a corporate prayer of confession followed by silence for individual prayers of confession. It comes right after the call to worship, and I find it an important time of worship to begin by admitting to my sadly repeated failings from the past week. Confession and humbling oneself before God really does have to come first. Yet, in all three churches we have visited so far, not a single one... and these are different denominations with different worship styles... has had any sort of confession in the service. Not even before the taking of Communion in the very traditional service we went to last Sunday. I find I miss this piece of the worship service.
So tell me... is our old church unique in this, or have we just hit on the few churches who do not do this? Is it a Reformed-thing (none of the churches we have visited so far are from a Reformed theology)? Is this part of a worship service familiar to you? Does your church do it? It seems so important to me from a theological perspective that I can't imagine every church doing it.
We are going to try another church next week. There are still several on my list, but I am feeling the need to find a church home and settle down. This more than anything will help me feel as though this is a permanent move. And then there are the four youngest people who are clamoring to go to Sunday School, and were pretty miffed last week when they didn't get to go. (It's odd visiting churches in August, because so much of church life is on vacation for the month.) Once we find a church we might want to attend again, we may try out Sunday School as well.
This whole 'finding a church-thing' is both interesting and a little frustrating. It's kind of like trying out a new seizure medicine. You can only go to one at a time, there is only one Sunday in a week, you don't really know if this is where you belong with just one visit, so feel the need to go back a few times, and so it takes a long time to get anywhere. I am not a patient person, and I just want to be able to make a decision now.
Oh, vegetables! I almost forgot.
The tally as of yesterday:
Avacado - 1
Beans (navy) - 2
Corn - 1
Cucumber - 1
Edamame - 1
Escarole - 1
Green beans - 1
Lettuce (romaine) - 1
Onion - 4
Spinach - 1
Tomato (cherry) - 1
Tomato - 1
Zucchini - 1
I realize I forgot to add in Saturday night's meal (turkey chili and corn bread with corn kernals baked into it), so that explains why things suddenly appeared.
Last night I made green beans they way they appeared at every breakfast buffet we ate at in China. It is also the vegetable that R. and Y. ate their weight in every morning. It took me a year to perfect the recipe, but Y. has now declared that I have managed to replicate it. It's pretty tasty and something different to do with green beans rather than cook them and serve them with salt and butter... though that's good, too.
Chinese Breakfast Buffet Green Beans
Slice one onion in to strips (or two onions if you are making a lot of beans). Trim the beans, and leave them whole. Heat in a large frying pan (or wok if you own one) some vegetable oil and a little sesame oil. When the oil is hot throw in the onions. Cook for a while, stirring, until they begin to soften. Add a couple of teaspoons of minced garlic, and give another stir. Then add the green beans. You want to cook and stir this mixture until the onions start to turn brown and the beans begin to have dark spots on them. Towards the end of cooking, add in some (a couple of teaspoons?) black bean paste (or sauce... depending on what you have available.) Stir that in and heat through. Serve.