Murfreesboro Baptist a welcoming congregation

Published 1:17 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

I haven’t been much on going to church for a while. I think that was rooted in the fact that my father was a preacher. I saw the workings of a lot of different churches from the inside and, frankly, I was the opposite of impressed.

I saw a bumper sticker somewhere that pretty well summed up my sentiments. It said, “I believe in God. I just don’t have much use for his fan club.”

My father was good at what he did. So good, in fact, that he usually was assigned to “broken” churches, those, for instance, where folks would come to Sunday morning services and refuse to speak to others coming for the same purpose.

My father tried valiantly to fix such things and in doing so frequently wound up caught in the cross-fire. When that happened, we’d move and the whole process would start all over again.

Or at least that was my interpretation of how all that worked.

In any case, I decided somewhere along the line that most people who went to church in the churches I knew about weren’t really there for the reasons for which I understood they were supposed to be there. In fact, based on the way they acted while they were there, I couldn’t understand why they bothered to come at all.

So I decided I didn’t want to be there. Hypocrisy is not one of my strong suits.

I tell you all that to tell you I think I may be about to change my mind. It’s early, but I seem to have found a church that is all the things all those other churches didn’t know – or had forgotten – how to be.

Sherry and I are leasing a house in Murfreesboro. I like Murfreesboro. It’s a cool town where the people, it seems to me, are both genuine and genuinely friendly, something I’ve found true, come to think of it, of North Carolina in general.

The Sunday after Sherry found her way from Texas to North Carolina (actually, she didn’t do that all by herself – I had to go meet her in Mississippi and show her the way) we made our way to Murfreesboro Baptist Church, a few blocks from where we live. I went because I was really, really glad she was finally here, and church is very important to her.

Normally, my favorite part of church is the benediction.

That wasn’t so that first Sunday at Murfreesboro Baptist. For some reason – or maybe for lots of different reasons – I felt like I was supposed to be there. In part that was probably because just about everybody in the sanctuary came and introduced themselves to us.

Sometime during the next week, a member of the church brought us a loaf of home baked bread. Her husband baked it, she explained, and sharing that bread is kind of their own ministry.

As I write this, I’m sitting on the couch in the living room of our leased house on Sunday afternoon. In church this morning, before the service started, several people came by and said hi, many of them re-introducing themselves. When the lady sitting in front of us told us who she was, I reciprocated and then told her what I do for a living. She already knew. She reads the paper, she told me.

There’s always a time at the first of the service when everybody gets up and greets everybody else. People from all over the church found us and said hello, even some from the choir. They’ve done that every Sunday we’ve been there. They don’t have to, they just do.

As I left after church, the preacher called me by name. I wondered, as I walked down the front steps, if he knew how much that meant.

This column was born at the end of the service, when the preacher invited church members to “adopt” a Chowan University student. That, he said, would involve taking the student to dinner once a month, or having them in the church members’ home for dinner. The preacher called it just being a friend to the student.

That, it seems to me, is destined to be a tremendous success. It’s something this church does very, very well.

In fact, I wonder if that might be what church is, or is supposed to be, all about.

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and the Gates County Index.