The surprising benefits of attending a church where you don’t know a soul.
Traveling this summer? Out on the road? Taking a vacation? No need to make it a vacation from church. Try dropping in on a congregation away from home.
I’ll admit the first time I visited a church on a summer day far away from my own church, I wondered what had gotten into me. Was it a guilty conscience? Or just a healthy dose of curiosity?
The place was practically empty when I arrived–oh, the pews filled up as time went by–and I didn’t know a soul. Nor did anyone know me.
That can be a blessing. Nobody came up to me with urgent church business in mind; nobody asked me why I wasn’t at such-and-such a meeting last week, and I didn’t for a minute wonder why so-and-so was or wasn’t in church.
I was able to worship with a head and heart free of distractions in a congregation of strangers who didn’t seem all that strange. After all, we were all brothers and sisters in Christ.
We sang, we prayed, we listened to a sermon, we heard Scripture. And at the end I shook hands with my new friends. They even recommended a great restaurant to try.
Since then I have made it a practice, whenever possible, to go to church on Sunday morning wherever vacation takes me.
I have stood on sandy beaches for worship with the waves lapping at our toes. I have sat in stunning historic buildings, gazing up at dazzling stained glass windows, admiring gracious Gothic arches.
I have sung with guitars and drums and sung with pipe organs. I have been in thunderous congregations among thousands in bleacher seats. And I have been part of early morning congregations where there were only a handful of us.
Have I been welcomed? Always. Have I felt awkward? Sure. But there’s always been someone there to guide me or hand me a bulletin or give me the right psalm book or hymnal.
What I have always known, what I have frequently discovered to be true, that where two or more are gathered in His name, God is there.
I have found that with Him present, I am never a stranger however far away from home I might be.
Traveling this summer? Drop in at a church on Sunday morning. If I’m lucky, perhaps one of you will drop in at my church and give me a chance to welcome you.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader