A couple of Sundays ago, my wife and I were running really late for church — so late that we weren’t ready to leave home until the 10:30 a.m. service was actually starting.
Since our church is about 20 minutes across town, we had to make a decision: show up ridiculously late, or go somewhere else with a later service time.
As we were getting on Highway 190, I proposed going to a Temple church that my wife had been suggesting we attend. It was an Episcopal church — the same denomination as our home church — and this other church’s service didn’t start until 11 a.m.
So off we went.
Along the way, we texted some friends who attend the Temple church and asked if we could meet them there. Several minutes went by and they didn’t respond, but we just kept driving.
Finally, as we were pulling into the city, our friends texted us back and told us their church only had one Sunday service in the summer, and it started at 9:30.
We were a bit miffed — summer hours? My wife went so far as to drive by the church to check it out. Sure enough, the parking lot was full, but the parishioners were coming out and getting into their cars to leave.
There we were, all dressed up (in a casual sort of way) with nowhere to go. And we both really wanted to go to church.
As we drove around downtown Temple, looking for another house of worship, we saw an unassuming, brick Methodist church with a sign out front advertising an 11 a.m. worship service.
We looked at our watches. We still had five minutes to spare.
Inside, we found a modest sanctuary and a lot of very friendly people. Quite a few people came over to welcome us, ask us where we were from and thank us for coming.
We knew right away that this was a much more informal service than we were used to. When the music started, my wife and I just smiled at each other. It was contemporary and stirring, with a jazz-infused organ backed by electric bass and drums.
The prayers offered up by the worship leaders were emotional and heartfelt. The praise music was joyous and uninhibited.
But perhaps this church’s biggest treasure is its pastor, an elderly clergyman with a dry wit and a passion for preaching the gospel.
Noting the tragic shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge earlier that morning, he shared the message of how we should not keep our faith confined to the church building or to our homes. Rather, we must seek and save those who are lost and tell the story of our faith to those who may not look like us or live like us, because that is our mission — and that is the only way we can make a difference in our troubled society.
When it came time for the fellowship portion of the service, at least a dozen people came to greet us warmly, giving me back-slapping handshakes and several women hugging my wife as if she were a long-lost relative. Then they presented us each with a Bible and small cross pin.
After the nearly two-hour service, we walked out smiling and talking about the spirit-filled service we had just attended.
We thought about how it’s good to get out of our comfort zone now and then, to experience different worship styles and meet new people. We also realized we could amp up how our own church welcomes visitors.
In hindsight, it was a blessing that our first choice of church didn’t have an 11 o’clock service. We can always go there some other time.
And we’re pretty sure we didn’t just show up at that Methodist church by accident, either.
It may have been what the Lord had planned for us all along.
He does have a sense of humor, you know.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor / opinion of the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Heights Herald. Contact him at email@example.com. or 254-501-7543.