So, if last week’s experience left me feeling a little like an outsider, my visit to Bethel Community Church this week was the complete opposite. I’m sure at least 10 people introduced themselves to me or my wife and welcomed us to the church. This is definitely one of the friendliest congregations in town. We even got to meet some readers of this blog, who had some very complimentary comments to make.
As an aside, my goal here isn’t to create an official ‘church directory’ for Barrie, but I expect that when I’m done this will become one of the most comprehensive descriptions of the congregations in the city.
As it happens, Bethel likes its sermons, and generously provides several of them during the morning. First we had a kids-oriented discussion about communion. Unlike most Anglican churches where children are brought into the service from Sunday school to take communion, at Bethel they get given a talk and then sent out before it starts. And whereas some churches I’ve visited have emphasized communion as a celebration of our participation in God’s family, the focus here was on encouraging the children to ‘make a decision for Christ’ at some point in their later lives.
After the kids were dismissed we had the second sermonette of the day, again about communion but this time focusing on the need for reconciliation with each other before we seek reconciliation with God. I liked this bit; the speaker urged the congregation to take time, even during the service, to seek out others with whom they had disagreements before they ate together.
After communion another guy got up to give what I thought were going to be closing remarks, but actually turned out to be the main sermon. The subject was ‘tithing’, and I’ve already reflected a little on this talk here.
Finally, just in case we didn’t get the point, after the last song yet another leader stood up to give a mini-message re-iterating the main speakers point.
Bethel is currently in between pastors, and so going through all the usual pastoral search committee fun that that entails. This also means that a visit now may not be 100% representative of what the church would feel like in six months time – pastors like to stamp their character on a church fairly soon when they arrive in my experience.
I’d heard good things about Bethel from other folks in the city before I visited, and my impressions were of a warm, friendly, welcoming congregation that’s in the middle of a transitional phase. I wish them all the best as they figure out the direction they are going in.