I walked into a huge church in Texas. The parking lot was packed to the gills. Young adults were heading toward the doors of the sanctuary, Bibles in hand.
I was visiting my mother for my home is in Maine. What a breath of fresh air it was to spend a Sunday in Denton. It was far different than the Rock Gardens of God - New England.
I got up early, drove to various churches, parked the car and entered one sanctuary after another. I did not have the time to stay in every church for every worship length; but I stayed long enough to pick up the bulletin and get the feel of the environs.
It was awesome. Sunday is actually like a special day in Denton - God's holy day. There are citizens there who truly turn off the labor of six days in order to focus on God Almighty. They gather under various denominational labels, but they gather nevertheless.
This particular church where I stayed the longest was filling up. I was taken in by all the young adults - some as couples, others as obvious singles, filing in to take their seats. They looked happy. They were clean cut. They were reverent yet sociable, smiling at one another, embracing a friend, waving a greeting. It was a family meeting, I concluded - a very large, welcomed family meeting. We were all one big clan - at least as long as we were together in the sanctuary with Bible in hand.
The pastor was casually dressed, as were most of the parishioners. In fact, I think I could easily pick out the tourists who chose that church for that Sunday's worship. They were dressed more formally, like back home. But the regulars were seated in their casual nice selves. Texas weather lends itself to that anyhow.
The singing was from the heart. The announcements were few. The special music was not outlandish but stirring for the soul. The freedom in the air was invigorating. It did not take work to worship; it was a spirit pleasure. "No wonder they build such large parking lots attached to these churches. The people never give up. They keep coming back - not only on Sundays but for special events on weekdays," I noted.
I wanted to call my friends back in Maine, inviting them to come on along. But then I noted not many empty seats. Practically every seat in the large auditorium was filled. Yes, there were senior citizens there. They were not forgotten. And they fit right in with the younger set. Boys and girls were actually seated alongside their parents. I truthfully witnessed whole families sitting alongside one another! Wonders never cease in some locales.
With that I remembered reading of other worship experiences like this peppered around America. They are there. They are active. They are alive.
Then it was that I put aside the frightening newspaper headlines that had been screeching at me all week long. Thankfully I turned off Dan Rather and Peter Jennings in my head. With that, I realized that there is a tremendous underground of truth at work in this country. That Sunday morning I had become a part of it and didn't want to leave. It was wonderful.
J. Grant Swank, Jr.