We began to drive around looking at where other churches were, read our local weekly paper for service information. I look back now and realize that we approached the search for a faith home like two lawyers would approach a legal question. We looked at likely distance we would travel. We evaluated what denominations had churches in our community. Although there are many churches that fall into the Anabaptist category, we both felt this was not in keeping with our faith views. I was adamant that I would not convert to Catholicism. Neither of us felt that the "bible-centered" churches with a heavy leaning upon the Old Testament law or knowing your salvation moment seemed like us either. Which narrowed things down pretty quickly. Episcopalian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Lutheran.
So I suggested we visit each. We started with the Episcopalian parish. I am not sure why. We arrived for the service. It was a lovely stone church with very pleasant greeters. The sanctuary looked like we were in the British Isles if a little small. About 40 people were there including the pastor and organist. The service bulletin and the service itself were easy to follow. At the conclusion of worship we were eagerly greeted and invited to the church basement for coffee and danish. We went. Light hearted banter with people who were genuinely enthused and introduced us around. We felt almost like we were in a James Herriot novel ( he of the All Creatures Great and Small). What we also noticed was that they had one confirmand, no significant childrens programming and we were clearly the youngest people there by 30 years. And yet here was this wonderful group of folks doing their darndest to change that with people like us. But we were the only ones and this is a town of 10,000 people. We knew we planned to start a family in a few years. How would this all play out? We did not go back. I felt horrible picturing these saints of God who we would not be coming back to. For years I could not drive past the church. They are still hanging on as a congregation but it is a struggle.
Next we visited the Methodists. Very large congregation. An abundance of activities and programs and an enormous campus. Large more modern sanctuary. Tons of kids and young adults. During the service the pastor talked a lot about money and how they needed more money to reduce their building debt, and there were posters and flyers about the money needs as well.
The greeters were pleasant in a kind of neutral way. No one in our pew said hello. When we left at the end of worship, everyone was disbursing to all of the activities in a swarm, but no one made any contact with us, in fact it seemed we were in the way of traffic. We signed the visitor's pad but no one followed up-ever. We did not go back. I have been in this church many times since because my brother in law now lives here and worships there. Each time has been about the same and his family has even said you just try to make your group of friends.
Meanwhile at my new job, my coworkers are interested in my church search. Finally my secretary says that we might like her church- the Lutherans just down the street. Tells me when the services are and tells me that if we come which service she goes to if we want a friendly face. And that if we do not go or do not like it she will not think anything of it. Low-key evangelism.
Neither my beloved nor I have ever been to a Lutheran service and we go for Reformation Sunday.