lord, hear our prayers.

Harmony Grove United Methodist Church
I like this church. It's small, with about 70 people attending regularly. We sang one song I did know and one I didn't, and the choir was actually very good. No handbells. The preacher (who had such a lovely southern gentleman accent, I could listen to it all day) gave a slightly unconventional sermon about death that had a couple of historical references (I like informed preachers) and started out with a joke about a little girl asking about the birds and the bees, which I thought was daring.

The church definitely had that family feel that is so important to me. The people knew each other there. People would quip into the announcements to make a joke, and everybody laughed. They were nice to each other, they were nice to me. A woman came up to me and started telling me about the young adult Sunday School class. I was stopped by an older couple on my way out who introduced themselves. Yet another older woman stopped to talk to me and tell me how much she wanted me to come back. Rather than a chain of introductions like at the Moravian church, every individual here made it their business to meet me. I didn't have to be introduced as a visitor, because I obviously was to everyone.

This church had a prayer tradition that I've never experienced before, although I think it might be fairly common, perhaps in other denominations. In most Methodist services, there's a great big long prayer in the middle of the service, after the announcements, but before the offering. Beforehand, the preacher usually asks for prayer requests or celebrations. In this church, we all bowed our heads, and people would call out their requests one at a time, just saying the name of someone who was sick or something like "our troops overseas." Then after each one, the congregation would say in unison "Lord, hear our prayers." Admittedly, it took me a couple requests to catch on to what was going on, but once I did, I really liked it. There was a sense of togetherness in it, like your prayer is his prayer is my prayer, and we're all in this together.

Again, I like this church a lot. If there were not another Methodist church down the road that I was curious about, I would have said to myself that this was it as I walked out the door. This was the kind of church that everyone had been going to since they were born, and though they had a system and a rhythm already going strong before I came in, they were more than willing to let me, or anyone else, catch up.

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