On a previous post, we wrote about the biblical model of several families gathering in homes as a church to encourage and edify one another. Well, for a while now, we have been praying for the Lord to lead us to other families of like heart and mind in this area. We also desire a family-integrated atmosphere so that the whole family can be together and close relationships between parents and sons and daughters are encouraged in the practice of the church.
We had noted a few Shenandoah Valley families who had posted on Vision Forum's NCFIC site that they had similar desires. However, we received no replies to inquiries we made to them. So we continue to pray and watch.
Recently, we saw a posting on the same site for a church of 5 families who are meeting in the area west of Richmond. While this is quite a distance from where we live, we decided to contact Doug, the guy who wrote the post. We had an enjoyable conversation, and it seemed we might have a similar vision and heart. So we decided - why not? Let's drive out there to visit their meeting one Sunday morning. While we do not see that the distance would allow us to join them on a regular weekly basis, we thought it would be good to have some mutual encouragement.
So, this morning, we jumped in the van, and drove 1 1/2 hours to the Goochland County home of Doug and Carla, where the church was gathering. Some of their children were on the front porch with smiles to greet us, and we met Doug and Carla face to face. They were very gracious and welcomed us. Soon, two other families arrived with their children: Steve and Joanna (along with Steve's visiting mom and dad), and Rob and Ashley. After some introductions and talking, we segued into our meeting.
Since Doug and Carla were hosting, Doug took the role of facilitator. We prayed for a while, then sang hymns together. Some were from the "Baptist Hymnal." Some were from some Powerpoint slides displayed on a screen (high tech home church here). Very uplifting. I appreciated "What a Friend we Have in Jesus," which encouraged me to persevere in prayer, even when the Lord has a longer timetable for answering than I do.
Then Doug led us through some "quiz" questions he had prepared, which were designed mainly to help the children participate. Again, he had obtained some images of paintings and other graphics that related to the questions and displayed them using Powerpoint as we talked. I bombed on the one question that I attempted to answer ("What is the first city in the Bible that God destroyed?"). I said Babel; correct answer: Sodom. Kids and parents both enjoyed doing that together.
Then we had a time of prayer together, lifting some needs to the Lord and giving him honor and praise for who He is. You can tell when people know the Lord.
When that time came to a close, Doug spoke with us about God's work of regeneration. It was pretty interactive with several of us interjecting/adding ideas. We walked through doctrines and applications of God's calling (external and internal), as well as the work of the Spirit in regenerating us. One emphasis from Doug was that, while we bear responsibility for obeying God in sharing the gospel, God is the one doing all the real work.
We then sang one of my favorite hymns, Charles Wesley's "And Can It Be." I love the words that express how amazed the writer is that God would love him. We prayed again, then adjourned to... the kitchen.
There, we had the Lord's Supper, which this church does by sharing matzo bread and grape juice (kosher!) together. Steve talked first about the nature of the Lord's Supper and why we practice it. Then the dads distributed the matzo to their family members, followed by the grape juice from a common cup for each family. From there, we launched into the meal.
Each family brings food to share, and they try to plan it so the dishes are "low impact" to avoid over-burdening the ladies with elaborate preparation. Today was salad and pizza day - yum! There were also various breads, and Rob and Ashley brought a snow cone maker. All reports were that the snow cones were a great treat.
While eating, we talked with everyone about our backgrounds, what we're doing, some more discussion on the Bible teaching from earlier, upcoming mission trip for Steve's parents, home schooling, and many more things. It was SUPER-ENJOYABLE! Several of the kids were outside running and playing.
Our time to leave came suddenly and too soon (we had to get back to help Micah with some stuff and to rescue our dog). Everyone was very friendly and hospitable. We will likely keep in touch with them, perhaps returning to visit some more.
We're thankful for the encouragement it provided us, and hopefully we were able to do the same for them a little bit.