Barrie Free Presbyterian Church meets on Crawford Street at 11.00. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you attend on the first Sunday of the month, they serve one of the best potluck meals I’ve ever been privileged to taste!
Although this was our first visit, my family and I were warmly welcomed and invited to join the congregation in eating after the service. This is something that we can all learn from. Eating together is one of the most important things that any group can do, I think. Next weekend many of us will be getting together with the scattered branches of our families to celebrate Thanksgiving, no doubt through the ritual of a shared meal. Yesterday my company celebrated a successful quarter by having breakfast together at Cora’s. And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that one of the central sacraments of the Christian faith is a shared meal.
So I’m glad that this congregation is in the habit of eating together, and welcoming strangers to the table to sit and eat, and in my case ask lots of questions.
I’ve not attended a ‘Free Presbyterian’ church before. Apparently this is a denomination that broke away from the Presbyterian church in Ireland in the 1950s. Indeed, the idea of ‘separation’ seems to be a significant emphasis for this congregation. “Fundamental, Separated, Evangelical” appears on the signboard outside the church. “Separated unto the Gospel” is the title of the booklet I was given after the service. And in speaking to members of the congregation, I understood that the church sees itself as having a dual role; both preaching the truth of the Bible but also opposing what it sees as apostasy.
The other major focus of this church might be ‘sin’. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” is the verse printed on the front wall of the building, and the word ‘sin’ was easily mentioned 100 times during the sermon.
The sermon itself was based on Luke 7 and was delivered very competently by a guest speaker. Apart from the emphasis on the importance of awareness of sin, it was mostly a re-iteration of core points of this church’s theology. I’m sure that this was re-treading very familiar ground for most of the attendees. I suspect that in this church this has an almost sacramental value, the telling and retelling of the fundamental points of the denomination’s doctrine.
Once again, I had difficulty getting a clear answer to my question ‘what is God doing in the city?‘ Once again, mention was made of various humanitarian initiatives such as the Barrie Food Bank, and mention was also made of people converting to Christianity.
I’m getting a little concerned by this. The church is supposed to be made up of followers of Christ. Surely it’s reasonable to ask people who are following Christ where He is going? Otherwise, how can we be following?
I’m hoping to hear more than just ‘this is the ministries that this particular congregation is involved in.’ I want to hear ‘this is what God is doing, and this is how we’re aligning ourselves with His mission.’ I have this strange hope that one day I’ll be able to ask this question of the churches in Barrie and receive answers that, if not in unison, are at least in harmony.