Editor’s Note: This article was written before the COVID-19 pandemic led to restrictions on gatherings.
I am standing at the back of the sanctuary, singing along as the praise team leads the congregation in the last verse of the song “The Lord Is My Salvation.” The singer standing closest to me has green hair and tattoos. The singer next to her is a Christian school teacher wearing glasses. Playing the guitar is a woman in her 60s who just finished vision therapy. On the drums is a university student who decided not to go back to classes this fall. And behind a large acoustic bass is a guy with a big, black beard. He has an advanced theological degree and is apprenticing to become an electrician.
From where I stand, I can see a chicken farmer, an entrepreneur, someone who uses a wheelchair, a university professor, an elderly widow, and a homeschooling mom. Most of the worshipers are white. But there is a whole row of people from the Philippines. Sitting close to them is a woman from India in a sari who is here for the second Sunday in a row. There are folks from other places scattered around the sanctuary. This is small-town Ontario. But the diversity is remarkable.
Today we celebrated communion for the first time with all gluten-free bread to be as accommodating as possible. Some time ago we transitioned to all juice in the communion cups for the same reason. We want the sacrament to be as hospitable as we can for all God’s people.
Three people professed their faith in Jesus Christ this morning. It was a joy for our elders to interview them and hear their faith stories leading up to this morning and a real encouragement for the congregation to welcome them as full professing members. In a few moments, people will congratulate them and shake their hands. But for now, the praise team is still singing, and I’m savoring the moment.
Church is packed with visitors today. Most, if not all, of these visitors were warmly welcomed by one of our greeters. No matter their gender, social status, ethnicity, age, body shape, or belief system, people have been accepted into our worship space with a smile.
I hear some people think that churches are places where only certain kinds of people are allowed. I hear that some people think church people are mean, racist, judgmental, unforgiving, condescending, intolerant, and joyless. I hear some people think church is a place of hate rather than love, a place where minds are closed rather than open, and a place where hearts are cold instead of warm.
Those people must never have come to this church. I am amazed at what God has done here. This has got to be the weirdest place in town. Where else could you get so many truly different people united together in one place? We have such an unlikely assortment of humanity at Palmerston Christian Reformed Church. And yet it works. How is this possible? Truly, it is a miracle of grace.
This is my church. This is God’s church. Right now there’s no place I’d rather be.