I Don’t Make This Stuff Up

Just a few minutes before the service was to start, I drove past and kept on going.  Not enough cars in the parking lot.  Bound to be awkward.  But I turned around and went back.  If I didn’t actually go, I wouldn’t know what it is like. What’s the worst that could happen?

When I entered the foyer, there were a few kids around a table, maybe a sunday school class or something.  I could see chairs in rows in the next room, so I concluded that was the sanctuary.  There were no greeters.  Just a lady standing there with her toddler, “Melvin, let the lady through.”

I went in and found a chair to sit in.  Melvin followed me in and turned the lights off.  So I sat in the dark.  I could hear voices in the adjoining room, probably the adult sunday school class.

The Big Guy went through the room a few times, stopping to chat with Melvin, Mom-of-Melvin, and some of the other apparent regulars.  Eventually he made eye contact, introduced himself, and welcomed me.

When the service started, it became apparent that Captain Big Guy wasn’t really in charge.  I don’t know if Major trumps Captain, but at this point Major Big-Guy’s-Wife took over.

The service opened with the Lord’s Prayer. Today they were having more of a song service than normal, and it consisted of traditional hymns sung to recorded music.  The words to the hymns and the order of service were on papers that were handed out to each person.

As we proceeded to the second hymn, something was apparently wrong with the sound track that had been prepared for the service.  The Big Guy suggested that we proceed with the scripture reading.

I was more than a little shocked when The Major snapped, “No, we’re not doing it that way!  That is not the way I planned it!  Play the music for the next song!”

After a little marital unbliss, The Big Guy convinced The Major to proceed.

While The Major was reading scripture, Melvin was tossing around a little rubber ball.  Apparently this was distracting The Major and she said, “Melvin, you are going to have to stop.”

At this point, Melvin took over the service.  Given a little attention, he played right into it and so did The Major.

“Melvin, I’m not putting up with this today!”

“Melvin, can you see that I am not happy?”

And 20 adults in the room tried to corral Melvin who was determined not to be corralled.

Eventually a senior lady put her foot over Melvin’s little ball and stood her ground while Melvin frantically attempted to wrestle back his ball and his control over the situation.

The scriptures were read, the Melvin Show was over, and the music was back on track.

The following 15 minutes of singing old hymns was probably the highlight of the morning.  I truly appreciated the simplicity.

The message of the morning was about heaven.  It was a compilation of several Christian email-forward type stories pasted together with a couple of scripture verses.  Theologically, it wasn’t exactly “Surprised by Hope.”

One final hymn.  The benediction was beautiful.

I visited with a few people afterward.  They were very nice.  My issue with church has never been the people.  I love the people of God wherever I encounter them.

I am still struggling to form some conclusions about the morning.

The reasons that I went to this particular church were first, because I wanted something very different from the programmed church experience, and also, I wanted to put myself in a situation with people I wouldn’t normally encounter.

Obviously that was accomplished.  I am not sure if those are good enough reasons to return.

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14 thoughts on “I Don’t Make This Stuff Up

  1. Were those ranks real, or just metaphor?

    More to the point, were you worshipping at the Salvation Army? If you were, I sincerely apologise, and promise that it’s not like that everywhere. We do try to keep it fairly simple though.

  2. Cameron,
    No need to apologize. There were aspects of the gathering that were really nice. The simplicity and unpolished nature of the service was very appealing to me. The behavior of the leaders, not so much.

  3. Oh, that’s hilarious. Or pathetic, whichever. But you have to go back… if nothing else, it’s exceptionally entertaining for us to read.

    Oh, and when you say you enjoy “the people” in the church, I presume you are excluding the leaders…. ;^)

  4. Funny stuff, but kind of sad, too. Maybe next time you go you could discretely slip out your cell phone and capture Melvin on video for us. I do so love to watch kids be kids!

  5. What is funny … if they’d just ignored Melvin, he’d have quit and nothing would have happened. The adults probably got all in a tizzy because you were there and they felt like they needed to put on a good face for the visitor. What a riot.

    Melvin knew that uncomfortable vibes were flying all around the room and he knew exactly how to strum them. Ha ha ha … kids are so funny. Unless they’re pushing your buttons … then not so much.

    I think if you go back and get to know those people the silliness will die down dramatically.

  6. I am not sure how to respond. First the discussion here is the negative effect of the “over organized church” then the negative of the totally unorganinzed church.
    It really is about the people and as a pastor have had almost everything go wrong on the same Sunday. I don’t think it has been that bad as I would have likely invited Marvin to help me and set the rest of them down.
    Sounds like a church without many resources and if there are they are not spendiing them on fancy equip.
    Oh well great story and I do hope you will go back and get to know those folks. You may need them as much as they need you.
    WaynO

  7. BrotherM,
    Nah, most leaders are good people. It’s the role I have a problem with.

    sarah and tracy,
    I like the idea of having children in the service. Sadly, rather than typical toddler behavior, Melvin is already on the path to being handicapped by lack of normal guidance. I wasn’t annoyed by the disruption, but I was bothered by the trajectory he is on.

    sonja,
    I hope that my presence wasn’t a hindrance to their normal service. They certainly didn’t need to perform for me, but I didn’t know how to communicate that except by a relaxed demeanor and the smile plastered on my face.

    wayne,
    The lack of organization, resources, and things going wrong were not a negative to me. They were refreshing. The people were lovely, and I know that I would be blessed to get to know them.

    The couple in charge were quite unhealthy, and that is an obstacle for me. I have already attempted to serve with/under emotionally unhealthy leaders. That really was my only disappointment with the service.

  8. Grace,
    I can relate to this story in a small way. I have had a few experiences where I felt as though I was on another planet when in an unknown church service.
    The one thing that amazed me in one of these was what the people of a tiny congregation taught me about God’s kingdom.
    I would agree with the unhealthiness of the leadership just from the description you give, I’m not sure I could jump that hurdle either.
    Anyway, I hope that you find Grace and peace on you journey, whether you go back or not.
    Peace

  9. Yeah – I know you don’t make this stuff up – thing is there is a lot more weirder stuff out there!!! You don’t need to watch X-Files to discover this truth.

  10. shaun,
    Great post. Small congregations with simple services can be real gems.

    mark,
    Yes, I wonder what my next move will be.

    LOL tom! We all know some Melvins and probably occasionally lapse into our own personal Melvin moments. :)

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