• Wednesday, January 04th, 2017

Encore blog by Gretchen

When is a church at its best?

Is it when we are gathered in worship on Sunday morning and we sing and pray together as the candles flicker and the organ booms? Is it when we collect mittens and hats and warm socks for a few Sundays in the fall and gift them to the poor for the winter? Some would say the church is at its best when it is social and amiable and fun. Others would claim that a terrific preacher makes us the best congregation in town.

 All of these answers are correct, I think, depending on what feeds your particular soul. However, I have recently been reminded in an unforgettable way that, for me, the church is at its best when it is acting in compassion, when we are praying for and pulling for each other as if our own lives depend upon it. Because they do.

 Just before Christmas, my son was taken ill unexpectedly. My husband and I had no idea how things were going to turn out. Neither one of us had never been so scared or prayed so earnestly in our lives. The speed and fervency with which our pastor and congregation responded to our situation was phenomenal. The feeling of prayer and support was palpable. I could literally “feel” the wonderful energy and heartfelt hopes for strength and healing that were being sent our way, and I am here to tell you that in all the churches of which I have been a part over the last 30 years, I have never had one that was so faithful and so consistent in their prayer life. The support we felt has kept us afloat when the worry threatened to undo us. We had emails everyday – not from people asking questions or giving advice, but just notes letting us know we were being held in prayer. My favorite went something like this. “Don’t know the specifics of what your son and your family are going through, but I want you to know I have just prayed for him as I have been every morning since I heard you needed prayer. May God grant you peace…” Such a simple message, a kind word. No concern to know the personal details of a very personal situation, but just sincere compassion and a wish for us to know we were held in her heart.

We received dozens of emails like that when the church first learned of our son’s illness, but even now that he is out of the hospital and back at school, and and weeks have passed,  I still receive calls or emails nearly everyday assuring us that we are held in prayer and we are not alone.

I can assure you that for an individual or a family in crisis, what we have been offered by our beloved congregation is utterly and completely THE CHURCH AT ITS VERY BEST!

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