Today we returned to visit Grace Reformed Church in Walkerton. It’s a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a relative of our closest denominational alignment, the Presbyterian Church in America.
We attended there for about a month or so when we first moved here, but the longish commute was a bit much with a two-nap baby, and we really wanted to find a more local church where we could be in a small group and / or have other interaction during the week.
There were also some things about the church that we didn’t particularly like.
The OPC comes from a tradition that takes for granted that there are two services each Sunday — morning and evening. Neither of us is from such a tradition, and we don’t want to go to two services each Sunday. This particular congregation has so many folks that travel a good distance that they have an afternoon service instead of an evening one, with a potluck meal in between. I like fellowship meals — but I confess I like them better when they’re less frequent and I don’t have to think about what I will bring this time. Also, I like having after-church meals with just one or two other families sometimes. Obviously, though, we’re not required to attend the potluck every week.
Today we arrived in time for Sunday school. I don’t know if there were any children’s classes — we didn’t see signs for any, and no one told us about any, but it seems likely they would have some, and I don’t think I saw any other kids in the adult class. The topic was baptism — I think they’ve been looking at it in an ongoing study. It was nice to hear more about the Presbyterian views on baptism and where they come from. And it was very nice that the semi-lecture format allowed plenty of room for questions. It was sort of funnily refreshing to be inquiring against the other side for a change. (We’re relatively new to paedobaptism, and it’s been over two years since we last studied it.)
The main service was comfortably liturgical. A piano piece for a moment of quiet meditation and preparation. A call to worship (via a hymn, I think). A reading from the law along with the assurance of pardon and a prayer. A community prayer with congregants able to name their concerns. Offering and offertory with prayer. A kids’ message. The sermon, one in a series on 1 Samuel, covering one chapter. Communion. And a benediction. I think there were three or four congregational songs altogether, one from a binder of semi-contemporary music, and the rest from the hymnal.
The kids’ message was pretty funny to me. Obviously the intent was to give the kids something to listen for during the sermon — the pastor just basically asked the kids if Samuel, David, and Saul all lived at the same time, and then talked briefly about knowing the main characters in any story you read, including the book of 1 Samuel. A note-taking page was handed out, too, but I forgot to look at it.
Communion was wonderful; funny what a difference little details make — details that may not have intrinsic importance in themselves. We liked having the bread and the cup separate. We liked going to the front to take a piece of bread from the loaf, instead of (stale) crackers passed through the pews, and then again going to the front for the cup of juice. We liked taking each element back to our seat and partaking together with the rest of the congregation. We liked the communion hymn, “Ah, Holy Jesus, how hast thou offended?”
People talked to us after the service; some remembered us and some didn’t, and that’s fine — it was almost two years since we’d visited before, and we hadn’t attended long.
Amy was a little wiggly but seemed content with her blanket or an occasional lap. She was pretty quiet. Occasionally played with some toys we brought, or looked at the hymnal or Bible, or drew on the bulletin. There’s a nursery available with toys, rockers, a pew, a bathroom, a window that looks across a hall into the sanctuary, and a PA system so one could still listen to the service — we didn’t need it today, but it’s a nice option to have, especially since it’s still connected to the service.
There’s more I would want to know through observing and exploring longer, but this could be a good option for us.
Perhaps I should also mention that the pastor’s wife is a hammered dulcimer player. She has a CD out of stuff she’d play at the local coffee shop. She also leads a group lesson, mostly other folks from the church. Her teaching and playing styles are different from mine, but it’s always nice to find people who even know what a dulcimer is.