Monday, February 11, 2008

Church Update

We have continued to attend the Mennonite church for four weeks now. We have really appreciated the church's values related to serving and helping others, practicing evangelism in very physical, tangible ways. We continue to enjoy the worship services, and love that they are in tune with the spiritual seasons of the global church, currently delving into the meaning of Lent. There are so many things that make us want to be a part of this church, and we are so inspired by its mission and vision.

Attending this church has been a big struggle for me, however, because I have been so turned off by the general lack of friendliness. Not once on a Sunday morning has someone approached us to introduce themselves are ask who we are. We even went to an Ash Wednesday service last week that had 20 or so people there, and were obviously new faces (made more obvious by an embarrassingly talkative toddler who also seemed unwelcome) and afterward NO ONE spoke to us except the pastor! I couldn't believe it.

Yesterday, we went to a newcomer's lunch hosted by a young couple with a new baby. This couple was very nice and warm, and there were several other people from the church there as well. Surprisingly, the only other people who introduced themselves and were interested in chatting were the other new people-- the church people (apart from the hosts) were very standoff-ish. Of course, I went right up to them and introduced myself and asked them some questions, but the interest did not seem to be mutual. We are glad to at least have some faces we recognize and can say hello to on Sundays during that awkward time after the service, even if they are all newbies as well.

After talking to several people about their experiences in Mennonite churches, it sounds like the subculture is very tight-knit and hard to break into. However, once we are IN, they say, it's a really great, close community to be a part of! So we plan to persevere indefinitely. I'm hoping that the toughest part is over, but we'll keep you posted.


Nathan said...

It's hard for me to swallow the idea that a good church can be so tight knit and unfriendly... maybe they see streams of visitors that don't stay, and they are waiting to see who is for real? But there must be some good things that you sticking around for. Keep us updated!

Daniel Shackelford said...

It does not really surprise me, knowing how the Amish are, and how Mennonite communities are often grown through birth, rather than outreach.

I am sure that over time they will get used to you being around, and eventually accept you.

I honestly would have a hard time in the same situation, but think I would see it as a challenge, rather than an affront.

Do they have a way of joining? Something that would indicate that you are in for the long haul?

Anonymous said...

I remember when
Robin and David attended another local church a few years ago. Everyone thought it was a "friendly" church. The only problem was, that they were only friendly with their friends! On about the 3rd or 4th Sunday, R. noticed a new lady. The two of them talked and comisserated (sp) about the unfriendly people. They both decided that THEY were going to be friendly, even if no one else was!
R & D invited the pastor over for dinner, apologizing for taking his time. He announced that they were the first people to ever have him and his wife over!!!
Aunt Gretchen

ShackelMom said...

This is a real contrast to our experience in the Mennonite church in Fresno. We were invited to share in an evening service about our work with Campus Crusade. The pastor took us aside and said, "Let's pray first!" Listening, we both thought, "He's praying to the same God we know." We had been going to our denominational church in the town and the pastor always seemed like he was praying to the congregation, not the kind of things you would say to an all-knowing God. That was the beginning of a great relationship with a church who really loved the Lord and visitors, no exclusiveness at all. We were in touch with the pastor and his wife until they went home to the Lord, many years later.