Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter in Highland County

Easter Sunday found me in Highland County with my Granddaddy Vance. As always, I enjoyed my time with Granddad, and part of me didn't want to leave beautiful Highland County.

When I arrived at my Granddad's on Saturday I thought this month I would just skip church, it being a special service at church's and not wanting to visit a church on such a "holiday" service. I thought it would be nice to spend that extra time in the morning with my Granddad and fixing us a nice meal to be shared together.

Saturday evening my Uncle John stopped by and invited me to his church in McDowell. An invitation to church from my Uncle John!!! I couldn't turn that down.
I changed my Sunday morning plans, by doing some meal preparation before church and leaving last minute details to be finished shortly after services. My Uncle came by my Granddad's home shortly before 10 a.m. and we were off to church.

Now the town of McDowell located in Highland County has a couple of Church Steeples, and I've passed by them often enough during my lifetime, but have never visited. On this particular Sunday we visited McDowell United Methodist, where both my Uncles John and Robin (my Mom's only two brothers) attend.

We arrived just a tad late Sunday morning and service had already begun. Uncle John told me to open the white door to the left and walk on in. I'm use to larger church buildings, so I was expecting a small area to stand in once I opened the door and walked in. You know what I'm talking about, that space from the last row of pews until you reach the back wall where I person can stand and scan for a seat without obstructing anyone's vision.

When I took a step into this sanctuary I was already two rows of pews deep into the congregation before I realized there was no standing room space. I was definitely blocking some people's view and the church was packed. A couple rows forward there was some space that fit me and my Uncle, and when we took our seats the church was FULL.

To give you an idea of the size of this church, I'd say there was about 60-70 people there that Easter Sunday, and we were packed into those pews. I think when a church building is that small the term best used to describe it is Quaint. I haven't spent much time in "country churches", so it only added to the charm of the service for me.

When you have that few number of people and you're in such a small space, you can't help but get to know one another. What a loving and caring family they were to each other, and visitors. Being part of that church just for the day, touched my heart.

I came to find out after the service that the individuals in that church actually made up four different congregations. I asked my Aunt Nancy (my Uncle Robin's wife) how many people attended the United Methodist church on a given Sunday. Her reply, "Oh, I'd say about twenty." That's something I've never experienced, being part of a church of twenty. I've been apart of small groups that size. Don't get me misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with being part of a church of twenty, there's even something idealic about it. I'm just stating the fact that a church membership that size is something foreign to me.

The reason for the combined church service was a tradition that these churches had with one another. Each year for the Easter week they combine their memberships and giftings to produce a skit that marks the passage of the week. There are four different services during the week (including two on Sunday) and each service is held at one of the churches.

What a beautiful message of the body of Christ, that these people who are neighbors and friends, drop their denomination title for the week and worship together.

I particularly liked the message their simple skit displayed on Sunday morning.

For someone whose church tradition is to see an empty tomb at front as visual focus, I was interested in knowing how they were going to use the fairly large cross at the front of their church. The cross was covered in some plastic mesh stuff. Shortly into the service adults began leading small children up to the front of the cross; the adults were reading scripture and the children carried beautiful flower arrangements. While one adult continued to read, two others would help the children arrange the flowers to the cross using the plastic mesh to hold the flowers in place. Before long you could no longer see the wood (or the plastic mesh) of the cross, it was so covered in beautiful, vibrant flowers.

The pastor then shared briefly this message (synposis form):

In day's of Jesus the cross was an ugly, torture of death. There was no worse way to die than by death on the cross.

Yet, today so many look to the symbol of the cross as a sign of hope and salvation. How is it that the message of the cross is so changed?

It's through Christ Our Lord!!

God is the One who can bring life from death. God is the One who can joy from adversity. God is the One that can change the hearts of each one of us. God is our Salvation!!

Today we see new life on this cross (the flowers) where before it was just two boards nailed together. Let this be a symbol of the new life that Christ can bring about in each of our lives.

At the end of the service as we sang the closing hymn two strong men carried the Flowered Cross out through the Church and placed it outdoors. My Aunt Nancy told me later that they leave the Flowered Cross there on the lawn for the whole next week, so as you passed by you would remember the ressurection.

I didn't have my camera with me that day to get a picture of the cross, but I didn't find the same sort of picture online.

You might also note from this picture that it was taken at a United Methodist Church, though it wasn't the church I visited.

1 comment:

Jesse, Christa and Marshall said...

What a beautiful (and quaint) experience.