Sunday, December 31, 2017

Visit Canada and Attend a Church

I am visiting Vancouver for 9 days, staying with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s family. I didn’t really plan to visit a church on Sunday, but by Sunday morning 10:30, my daughter asked me if we should find a nearby church and attend a worship service. I think it is a good idea—to me, comparing different church practices is always inspiring and fun.

I searched Google Map and found a church that is a 16-minute walk from where we live—Trinity Baptist Church. It has two services on Sundays: a “Bilingual” service at 9:30, and obviously we could catch the “Blended” service at 11 am, whatever that "blended" means.

By the time we walked into the church door, the service has already started. From the glass window, I could see the sanctuary was about the same size is my own church, with a good attendance of 70% full. Two ushers standing in front, one of them was praying, for church members, for communities, and for the nation of Canada.

After the prayer, we found our seats. There were announcements, a “Healthy Church Survey” was mentioned, its results include the necessity of emphasizing prayers. Visitors are called to identify themselves, so that a small gift packet is passed. Each visitor received a piece of heart-shaped chocolate candy, a pen with church phone number and website on it, a visitor info/survey form, and welcoming words of brief introduction to the church.

"Trinity Baptist Church seeks to be an "international church" welcoming people of all ethnic backgrounds to worship as one Christian church family. Although you will hear a variety of languages spoken, English is the common language for our Sunday worship services."Looks they are pretty successful in reaching this goal. The Apostles' Creed is printed, with Mission statement of a simple "Knowing God, Touching Lives".

In "Children's Moment", there were more than 20 elementary school-aged kids went to front. A pastor asked them New Year's wishes, and reminded kids God listens prayers before dismissed them to Children's Sunday School classes.

The program bulletin and other announcements have simplified Chinese printed below the English, I guess there must be many attendees are from Mainland China. There is much higher percentage of Asian faces in the congregation, but there is quite some India or Filipino decedents there too. No wonder it is said a “blended” service.

Scripture reading is a passage in Luke 2, not sure if they use the same lectionary as other mainline churches, but the sermon was very much focus on a center message: Don’t be a bucket, to keep God’s blessing to oneself, but be a pipe, channeling God’s good grace to those in need in 2018. The Biblical characters Simeon and Anna can be our models.

I notice the arrangement of the sanctuary is very similar to my Presbyterian church, but they install a screen for projector, whenever a scripture is read, or a song is sung, the screen would roll down promptly, so People can see the words from screen.

There are still Bibles and Hymnals on the pew, but people don’t have to flip through them to locate a passage or a song. (This is especially nice for people who are not familiar with Bible, or not follow service program well for songs.)

There are other activities going on Wednesday nights for this church. According to the bulletin, within a certain period of time, all are invited to join a meal at 6 pm, followed by a number of programs, including a children's choir, a kids' Bible lessons and games, two adult Bible studies, a prayer meeting, completed with nursery and preschool service. No wonder there are so many younger people in the congregation, they must have found this a good place to raise kids.

Besides, on the cover of this bulletin, there is a photo, taken from the church's "Christmas outreach team", people seemed giving out something from a tent in a public square, because it was raining. It was announced that the church has decided to donate all its Christmas Candle Light Service special offerings to sponsor a refugee family from Congo, whom they expect in 2018.

From the pew, I found the church is about as old as the small American church I am attending, established in 1955 and never moved from this location. I bet the place was not as populated as now, but the church must have adapted to the cultural changes quite well.

Another thing that's impressive to me -- the preaching pastor said he had adapted a son, and spoke from that experience, he could relate how God received us into His family!

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