This week I visited the First Missionary Baptist Church for my first congregation visit. This was a really interesting visit for me in comparison to my own Catholic upbringing. My experiences with Christian Mass up until this point were, as a result, largely in a Catholic context. When I was growing up going to Mass consisted on being silent while the pastor spoke. Because of that, I was immediately surprised when many parishioners would speak out in agreement during the service. Furthermore, I was surprised by the familiarity between parishioners and the pastor. Many times the pastor referenced specific members of the church, usually in small jokes or in examples. This was really indicative of the small community present in First Missionary, which was sometime I was unable to experience in my history with larger Catholic parishes.
In this sense, it was difficult for me to get comfortable in the parish at first. Many people introduced themselves to me and it was encouraged to speak out your opinions during the sermon. At the end of the service, different congregation members chose to speak of their own familial struggles so that other members of the congregation would pray for them. Furthermore, I was interested to see that the sermon delivered by the pastor had relatively little use of Biblical texts, rather, the Pastor utilized personal anecdotes to lead the congregation into his point. In addition, the sermon itself was based largely on the concept of correct action and intention, rather than a focus on religious texts. Overall, I was really impressed by the intimacy between the parishioners and the pastor. This congregation demonstrated a strong sense of community that I had not experienced myself in my own religious background.