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Finding Harmony: Bind Us Together, Lord

January 28, 2013

The last Sunday in January is always “house church Sunday” in our congregation, when our small groups (house churches) plan and conduct their own worship services in homes.

Pastor Ann always says house church Sundays are her favorite because she doesn’t have to prepare a sermon! It happens roughly four times a year. One group is assigned to meet at the church house so there is something going on there for any visitors or those who aren’t in house churches.

My house church, Kara, which runs a free clothes closet, (each house church is organized around a specific mission), happens to have the pastor emeritus of the congregation in it, Don Allen. In fact, he founded the congregation. He was called to plant a church for Shenandoah Presbytery back in 1962-3 and wanted to do “a new thing.” We are celebrating our 50th anniversary all year.

Don also wrote a book about the launch of Trinity, and what he learned in researching the house church movement of the 60s and 70s. You can still find his book, Barefoot in the Church in Amazon used book stores (or at our church or from Shenandoah Presbytery Resource library).

So what is worship like on a house church Sunday?

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We come in the back door, by the kitchen.

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We might sign a birthday card for someone having a birthday.

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Everyone talks as we gather. We practice new ties for scarves.

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We sing, we have confession, we pass the peace of Christ to one another.

The “sermon” can be anything from a video to a panel discussion, to a simple dance by the whole group, to short stories or “testimonies” from two or three. This Sunday we had a “scripture and music” sermon led mostly by composer/singer John Henderson.

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We are fortunate to have an ordained minister to lead communion in our small group. In groups that don’t have a minister as a member (and we have lots of retired ministers at our church), the installed pastor sometimes visits if communion is desired. Each person serves the next one. (In Presbyterian circles, a clergy person almost always leads the Lord’s Supper.)

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In today’s service, Don starts communion by recalling how when Trinity was first beginning and they began to practice communion in homes like the original disciples, he remembers how elderly Mrs. Funkhouser kept the communion leftovers on her table in her breakfast nook for a whole week before cleaning it up, because she was so awed by the idea of having that special meal in her home. Don reminded us that our simple table today is the same meal commemorated in huge cathedrals all around the world in much fancier surroundings, and the same meal Jesus served.

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We usually close with a circle prayer. (No photo. I didn’t want to spoil the moment.)

Jim always does the benediction. Maybe because he’s the most senior and has the best position from which to pronounce blessing on the rest of us.

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Then comes the real meal. Is that what makes house church Sunday so special? It was the house fellowships which first made my future husband and I decide to continue our faith journey with Trinity.

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This time Sue has brought “Sticky Date Pudding” with Toffee Sauce and Ice Cream, a dessert she loved on a trip to Prince Edward Island. It wins wave reviews. (Dalvay By the Sea shares the recipe online!)

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We sing Happy Birthday to Marjorie (second from right). Just like we used to do as children in Sunday school. Or like a family.

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That’s what house church Sunday is like on a cold but bright January day. A house church, like any church, is made up of humans with faults, weaknesses, strengths and gifts. That humans can come together and find harmony and powerful connection with each other and God in spite of our quirks and differences is a profound witness to God’s ever present and beautiful Holy Spirit.

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***

I enjoyed reading what another congregation has discovered about their decision to have something they call  “Table Church” once a month.

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From → Faith, Recipes

15 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing this. Beautiful.

  2. This is so great-I love the different elements of the meeting, and seeing the pics. Thanks for sharing the Table Church link too. Blessings!

    • It was your post about Table Church once a month that inspired me to write it so thanks to you too. Interactive blogosphere. 🙂

  3. Melissa Warner permalink

    Melodie, this is a lovely show-and-tell about “house church Sunday.” I’m Patti Warner’s sister and will one day be in the Burg and come with her! She gave me your book for Christmas a few years ago and I treasure it. I’m a big believer in the family table and I love to cook.

  4. Very interesting – I have always wanted to know more about house churches work.

    (There is a problem with the right hand side of the written column – a few letters/words are missing in every line – I have tried different browsers and they are all show the same problem.)

    • I’m sure house churches are different the world around but this gives just a taste. And thanks for the note about a problem… I’ll try to check it out, even though I can’t see it on my browser. I’ll check it out. Blessings!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Finding Harmony: New Presbyterian hymnal hitting all the right notes | findingharmonyblog
  2. Finding Harmony: Mennonite recipe from the Shenandoah Valley | findingharmonyblog
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  4. A dozen crosses in my house (but no shroud of Jesus in my toast) | findingharmonyblog
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