I decided last month that I had found my home church here in my new city and that I’d become a member there.
It’s the same church I’ve been attending since I moved here, but it takes a little time to get to know the members – to really discover if you and the church family are a good “fit.” Well, we are, it seems, and I attended the church’s membership class a week ago to learn more about some of this congregation’s distinctives (I’m already familiar with the denomination as a whole, the Christian and Missionary Alliance).
Then last weekend, I went along with several families for a churchwide campout at a local campground. It’s an annual campout the church holds each year, but this was the biggest group, according to several families who’ve camped for several years in a row.
Friday and Saturday nights were potluck dinners and Sunday morning was an informal worship service. (A couple gitfiddlin’ high schoolers and I were drafted to lead the singing.)
The rest of the time was free time… we hung out with whoever was around, did whatever we wanted to do (even the weather was cooperative) and generally spent extended amounts of time with other folks from church.
Now, a church campout is not something I’ve ever really been part of before. My cousins’ church (not far from here) has done a churchwide campout for many years, too; I’ve been visiting with cousins during that, but since their church is not my own – not my “family,” if you will – I don’t consider that to have been real participation in a church campout. Here, it was my own church family, mostly folks I’m acquainted with at some level but not really close to (yet).
Well, I met many more of the children than I had yet known. One little girl, three years old just about two months ago, climbed up on my lap and curled up there for quite a while as I made shadow puppets in the morning sunlight. Several kids jogged as quickly as their little legs could carry them as some older kids and I chaperoned them on a walk over to the pond (and on a detour back to the playground). We played Mafia (fun game!) on Sunday afternoon until most of the kids had to go home.
And I talked to several of the adults, too, of course. About our church backgrounds, about parenting, about Christian radio and music, about stuff that’s happened lately in the news (I’m the resident reporter, remember), about cooking parties in China. I met several people I didn’t know from Adam, some I may rarely see again, and got to know some other faithful church members whose very faces I’d have been lucky to recognize before. (And I’ve connected most of the kids to some parents. That can be challenging!)
I didn’t come out of that weekend having formed a slew of new, deep friendships immediately, nor did I expect to. However, I think the bonds forged in the heat of the late-night campfires may lead to such friendships. That’s what I’m thankful for and that’s what I want to work toward.
That’s the fellowship of believers… developed one conversation at a time.