27 June 2010

going to church in Belem

Below is a post from my own personal blog: http://megontheroad.blogspot.com I am sharing it here b/c I thought others might be interested in hearing about our first experience at a church in Brazil. Brandie and I went to church with a new friend we met in Belem named Lorena. She is a friend of one of our guides here in Belem whom we met earlier today.

Tonight we had a lovely evening with Lorena and her boyfriend, whose name I believe was something close to Alan. They took us to their church, the New Wine Church. She described it as a community church, not affiliated with any particular denomination. When we got there, she introduced us to a few different people who also spoke English, including the pastor and some members of his family. His one daughter, Sara, also introduced us to her husband and three children. Everyone was very nice and welcoming. Brandie and I sat sandwiched between Lorena and Sara, so between the two, we had a pretty good idea of what was going on.

When I first walked in the church, I thought that there was no way that we were getting out in under three hours. The service started with 30 minutes or more of praise music. Now, those of you who know me know that I am not a fan of praise music, but it wasn't too bad. Sara and Lorena translated the songs, so I at least got the general idea. The leaders of the praise band stand with their backs to the congregation. Sara said this was b/c they were there to worship G-d, not to perform. I really liked that. The room was also very bare. It was maybe the size of a small gymnasium, with stadium seating, but the from wall was bare white. There was a small glass stand for the pastor to use and a big table in the center that looked like the stump of a huge tree. Sara said that the church started out being about the people, but then they became too interested in the beauty of the church. Now they are trying to get back to being about the people.

After the music, the pastor started praying and talking to the people. He talked to the church and how many people didn't bring a friend today, so he was worried about the growth of the church. He talked to those people that came back to church after a long time and was thankful that they were back. He apologized if the reason why they didn't come for so long was b/c the church did not reach out to them when they needed help, etc. He also welcomed people there for the first time and apologized if the reason they hadn't come b/f is b/c of the way many preachers act, wanting only money. This church only had one offering, and it goes to support the church and the orphan children they take care of. Lorena said that they have 10 or so orphaned children that live in the pastor's compound that the church supports.

People were given a chance to stand up and say something, to testify might be how we would put it. Then the pastor preached about how to be a Christian you have to believe. His preaching was interspersed with Biblical verses (all NT) and stories about his life. Then we sang another song and asked everyone to hug each other on the way out. I hugged Sara and thanked her profusely for her help, and I hugged Lorena. Outside, an elderly woman shook our hands and kissed Brandie and I each on both cheeks. Lorena said that she was blessing us.

All in all, I found it to be a very worthwhile experience. The people were extremely helpful and gracious. While the style of the church service is not what I am used to, nor what I prefer, the service was very joyful. I also appreciated the ways the church is trying to be more of the people and less about the show of a service. The fact that they didn't constantly ask for money, which I thought they might, was also an added bonus. I know that we will have more experiences of going to church in Brasil in the coming weeks, but this seemed to be a good first step.

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