A couple of months ago an acquaintance asked me, "Where do you worship?" Without stopping to think, because stopping to think isn't something I tend to do, I accidentally answered with the truth: "Mostly in the Salt Lake park." She did look a little startled for a moment, but to give her credit, not shocked. With a little more conversation, it was easy to understand how she could understand, because she's also not a fan of the traditional institutional church experience, but also at least as much in love with Jesus as I am. I love making those connections.
I could make a much, much longer story out of it all (in fact, I did, and then deleted it--it was way too much), but the short version is that as of about two and a half years ago, I have not been a "regular attender" of a particular congregation, nor of any congregation at all. The first half year or so, I had all three of the little girls home with me Sunday mornings, and we often went to the playground with our friend Sue. Come to think of it, I'm not sure why that kind of dwindled away! Probably it started getting too hot or too cold or Sue was away or we were, and we never got back in the habit. That's okay--doing things just because they're a habit is one of the things I rebel against. Which doesn't mean I wouldn't like to go to the playground again some Sunday morning!
In the meantime, however, Katie (7 3/4) eventually started going to the house church with Jörn and the boys most Sundays, and now Helen (4 1/2) usually does as well, so just Elisabeth (2 3/4)and I are home. (Marie has been attending a different church for just over two years, was baptized there last year, for the last several months has been part of the music team, and last week participated in a membership class and will soon join as an official member.) So I started taking advantage of that time to clean the girls' room. I put on music and dance and sing and put stuff away and throw stuff away and Elisabeth and I have a great time, and once a week for a few hours, the girls' room looks almost decent. I should maybe occasionally put on music at other times, though, because not too long ago when Elisabeth saw me with the tape recorder, she said, "Are you going to listen to music and dance and clean up this horrible mess?" My habit of not thinking before I speak can especially come back to bite me with toddlers in the house...
So with all of that background...it's funny (to me, anyway) that I've "been to church" for the last five Sundays in a row. Five different churches, in three different countries, I might add.
Five weeks ago we were in Costa Rica and Jörn, Helen, Elisabeth, and I went to mass at the Catholic church near where my host family lives. (Mami and my sisters were at a seminar/retreat all day, and Papi and my brothers stayed home with the other children.) The sermon (um...I think it's called something else in a Catholic church, but I can't remember what in English...) was quite good, what I can remember of it, but between interpreting for Jörn and trying to keep Helen and Elisabeth quiet, I didn't get more than half of it. There was some amazing music and without any good explanation for it, taking communion was important to me and I was glad we had gone.
Four weeks ago we were in Germany and the children and I went to our "home church", the International Baptist Church of Düsseldorf. (Jörn was at a conference in Duisburg.) I seem to remember liking the sermon, but can't remember what it was about, but the best part was chatting with people after the service. Oh yeah, and it was my birthday...which meant that I got to (had to...) go up to the front and have everyone sing "happy birthday" to me. It was pretty funny, actually, because the last time my birthday was on a Sunday was 2002, and for some reason, I wasn't in church on that Sunday. I got jokingly "accused" of skipping it just because it was my birthday, and then when we moved to Cyprus four years ago, the same person teased me that we were leaving just to avoid that...and now that we don't live there, I WAS there for my birthday!
Three weeks ago I went to the house church because we had visitors (a mission team from Germany) and to get them all there, I had to help drive, so went ahead and stayed. We got there around 10:45 and at 2:45 they finally started getting lunch ready. Just one of the reasons I haven't been going there for over two years.
Two weeks ago the team was still there, but I couldn't take the house church two weeks in a row, and besides, Jacob just joined the Larnaka Inter-Church Youth Band (playing djembe) and they were playing at Marie's church, Larnaka Community Church. By taking all three little girls with me, Jörn had enough room in the car he was driving to take Lukas and the team, and after LCC, I drove Jacob, Katie, and Helen over to the house church, and several hours later, picked them up again.
Last week was Easter Sunday in the Western church. (Orthodox Easter this year isn't until May 5th.) Some of the non-Orthodox churches celebrate Western Easter, some Eastern, some both, and some neither. I did think about going to LCC's sunrise service, but it didn't start until 7:30, an hour after sunrise, and to have our annual family breakfast together I needed to be home again from my walk by then anyway. I left the house at 5:50 (very glad that we'd gone onto Daylight Savings Time in that night, because even though my body might have felt like it was 4:50, seeing the number 5 instead of 4 made it easier psychologically) and by the time is was just barely starting to get light, I was at the aqueduct. I climbed up on it and sat there for about half an hour, watching the sunrise and singing all my favorite Easter songs and taking photos. Yes, it was worship, and yes, it was wonderful, and not less so for being what I do every single morning. (Okay, I don't usually climb up on the aqueduct, but being out in the Salt Lake park in the morning makes it impossible for me NOT to worship.) I was home by 7:15 and just barely got breakfast on the table by 8:45, and that only because other people helped set the table. At 9:20 Marie and I left, so that she could get to LCC for band practice at 9:30 and I could go to St. Helena's, the Anglican church, also at 9:30. Which, when they say it starts at 9:30, they mean 9:30...so I was the last person in before they started and got just about the last seat, but at least it was next to the only four people I knew there! (Maybe they actually saved it for me? I didn't ask...) I could write a lot more about the service, but it would get a bit too much into with whom I was upset and whether I felt like I should be taking communion or not and how sometimes a liturgical service feels like a prison and is sometimes freeing and was both that day, so I think I'll just leave it there. If you need to know, go ahead and ask--maybe I'll get brave enough to write another post on that topic. Anyway, when I got home at 10:45, Jörn was able to leave for the house church with four children, and Elisabeth and I put on music and danced and cleaned the living room. At 12:30 we went over to Sue and Richard's house for Easter lunch with them and two other couples, and I did mean to come home again before our whole family was due to arrive there at 4:00...but didn't notice the time until 3:45, so we stayed. :-)
I'd been meaning to put in photos from the sunrise, but it's already very late and this post is much longer than I'd intended it to be, and I know from experience that if I save it in drafts meaning to add photos later, I'll never post it, so that's it for now. (Edited to add: yes, I posted photos. :-) But if you clicked on the link above, where I said I watched the sunrise, you already saw them.)