Pastors reflect on nontraditional service

CHAMPLAIN - Northern Tier congregations recently came together for a unique worship experience.

Three Steeples United Methodist Church and Mooers/Mooers Forks United Methodist Church had the privilege of welcoming the Rev. Holly Nye, conference minister for the Troy Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Champlain.

The Rev. Al Johnson, pastor of Mooers/Mooers Forks United Methodist Church, said the visit was a unique experience, given its setting. The joint service, he said, was held at the VFW at the request of the Rev. Steve Loan, pastor of Three Steeples United Methodist Church.

"Getting a congregation 'out of their comfort zone' can be a very challenging and dangerous task for a pastor," said Johnson.

Many times, a church is often viewed as a place which contains "our pews, our friends and our organ," he added. However, the Methodist denomination has a long history of "meeting people where they are," he said.

"It is said the essence of the Methodist spirit is to think of the church as a restaurant, with we, the members, as waiters, not owners," said Johnson. "We serve others, because Jesus served others."

In comments she shared with Johnson following the service, Nye remarked it was "wonderful to share in leadership" with the pastors and commented on how it was "remarkable" how everyone had to walk past a foosball table, pool table and bar to get to the service's gathering space.

"Worship on that Sunday did not really end with a song or benediction," Nye wrote in an e-mail. "Our prayers and singing led right into the blessing of a meal, which led to movement and conversation, which led to games of foosball and billiards. It was all a part of our celebration."

As Nye left the building, passing the darkened bar and out cannons in the parking lot, she said the image of Christian community in Acts 2:42, 46 echoed in her mind: "They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers ... every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw."

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