Last Spring we had a weekend away celebrating a friend’s birthday. On the Sunday I woke early and having looked up some churches, by googling “Jesus in…” and scrutinising the “welcome”, “about” and “what we believe pages” to make sure they lined up with scripture, I narrowed it down to two. Three of my children came with me.
By the time I’d found a parking space and got the children out of the car, the service had already begun. I peered in through the door at the back. The room was full. Everyone was standing and all I could see was a sea of silver hair. It was quiet, too quiet. “Oh no” I thought, I’ve made a mistake this isn’t going to be toddler/child friendly. A few years back I’d taken three age three and under to a service at a beautiful medieval church with spectacular decorations and heady Christmas scents. We were the only young family in sight and as we shuffled along the pew an older lady looked at us and leaned into her friend and said “well this should be interesting”.
Well, I wasn’t sticking around at this church, I turned around and signalled to the children to head back out the main door, maybe we could make it to the other church. But as I walked out the Holy Spirit turned me one eighty degrees and led me in. I tentatively walked back to the entrance of the room, the people were still standing and this time instead of looking and listening, I saw and heard. I saw that the people were stood up in prayer, and members of the congregation were, in turn, praying out loud. They were praying in the spirit. It was the most beautiful sight and sound.
We walked towards four empty seats at the back and sat down. A lady in the row infront turned and gave us a warm smile. As we stood to sing, another lady produced some baby musical toys, a flag and a tambourine and gave them to my children. We sang “Your Presence is Heaven to Me”, fifty or so voices, one guitar, all for Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sound more beautiful.
We were then invited to the children’s room were there was an array of crafts, toys, activities, drawing and colouring materials and snacks. The children happily played while I sat nearby and caught the sermon, which happened to be on Expectancy. Physically surprising but spiritually unsurprising my home Church was also to preach on Expectancy in the weeks after.
After the service my children ran up and down and weaved in and out of the rows of seats while I chatted to a couple of people. I was invited to stay and have lunch. While tables were being laid I learnt that this church hadn’t had any young families in for years, the only other child I had spotted was someone’s grandchild. All their children had grown and left the area and they were praying for young people to come. Now it made sense how joyfilled they were to see my children squealing, jumping and twirling all over the place.
They hadn’t had children in in years but they were ready, ready with the box of instruments, crafts, colours, stories and snacks. This was expectancy. This was Amen. I was so moved by the faith I saw in this small church in a little old building in the off season of a seaside town. We sat and enjoyed the most delicious ploughman’s together and I was greatly encouraged from conversations with a lady and a couple.
As the children and I returned back to the cottage to join my friends and rest of my family, I marvelled at all I’d seen. I love the church, I was home even though I was away from home. I am born again, born of the spirit and born into a whole new worldwide family in Christ. We walk this life with the faith we have been given and these faith filled spiritual prayers are not earthly prayers, they are powerful, fruitful and unfailing.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”