I'm not referring to myself getting it right. I'm referring to my visit to Praise Fellowship Assembly of God in Sheboygan, WI. These folks have got it goin' on! If you live nearby, and you are looking for a large, contemporary church with friendly people, good preaching, great worship music, teachers who love children and minister skillfully to them, and plenty of opportunities to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ--I recommend a visit. (I like the church more than I like the website.) Children's Pastor Trisha Peach was once part of a youth group Ken and I led--she is great--as is all the staff there.
They have a large, boxy sanctuary. I have seen it empty but had never attended a service there. I'm kinda busy on Sundays. ;-) I had wondered how they would make their sanctuary inviting. I found they had skillfully combined posters, lighting and technology to create a contemporary but aesthetically pleasing worship space. I had to smile as I gazed up at a representation of stained glass windows. I recalled some years ago attending a workshop on the emergent church and the postmodern generation in which the presenter said that churches would be more likely to have a video or a picture of stained glass than the real thing. At the time I thought that was a ridiculous statement, but here I was admiring lovely, colorful "windows"--one with a cross and one with a dove.
The worship music was contemporary, to be sure. Very. But it was joyful, meaningful, worshipful, powerful and moving. Once again, I had tears in my eyes and was aware of God. Music pastor Travis Gandy writes most of the music at Praise Fellowship as well as being a gifted singer and piano/keyboard player.
Pastor Ed Homer's message was informative, encouraging and straightforward. It was accompanied by a bulletin insert with notes, and (once again) very skillful use of a video clip and PowerPoint. I was blessed by hearing and "seeing" the message. Not all Power Point presentations are created equal.
At the close of the service, people were invited to come forward to pray with one of several prayer "partners." Pastor Homer had introduced me earlier and asked me to join them in praying with others. As it turned out, I prayed for a former next-door neighbor! She had been through a very difficult time and I had sent time with her (praying and listening) some years back. I lost track of her when she moved, but now she was able to tell me of how her faith in God had helped her grow stronger in the years since I'd seen her. She introduced me to her husband of a few months, who is interested in prison ministry and will be calling my husband!
I left feeling very glad I had been church. I love the diversity I've been experiencing!
Next morning we flew to California, our home state, where we stayed with my brother in law Larry, my nephew Grady, and Grady's wife, Jessica.
This was the first week of this sabbatical that has been a "vacation" with lots of laughter, fun, relaxing, and some tears. I missed my sister, Darlaine (Larry's wife) so much. Darlaine is the sister with Alzheimer's disease. One morning the music on the c.d. player, the beautiful California sunshine, the company, the food, the plans for zoo visiting, and prayer over our breakfast combined in an overwhelming sense of loneliness and loss. My family understood as I covered my face and cried at the breakfast table. We all missed her.
A few pictures are below. I tried to arrange the posting times so you could read them in order as you scroll down rather than backwards with the first post showing at the bottom.
Note: We left on Saturday morning and on Sunday the Santa Ana winds blew in and the terrible fires began. The Palomar Observatory is closed due to fire danger, and smoke fills the air over Carlsbad. Larry tells me they are okay, but masks have been distrubuted to those who need them. They are staying indoors. The freeways are closed. Things should be okay for them to leave on Sunday, as planned. Please join me in praying for those in danger, and for the families of those who have lost property, and worse have lost loved ones.