To me, a good church service is marked by how you feel when you leave. If you’re optimistic about humanity, glad to have seen your neighbors or met new people, or thinking about how you can be a better person in your community and life, you’ve chosen well. The nuances among faiths are less important in the overall picture of how you can put religious lessons to work.
This was largely the sense I got after attending the service at . The congregation originally met at the and spent some time on Union Street, which is where I had planned on visiting them. The church has recently switched locations, but I happened to see their new sign in the gray cinder block building on Broad Street, a structure they took over after moved from there to a larger building. The exterior is, admittedly, not the most aesthetic of the churches in town but the interior is pleasant in its simplicity. A piano and lectern are located at the far end of the building, and rows of chairs are set up in front of them. In the rear, a spread of coffee and donuts were laid out for parishioners attending the morning Sunday school class.
I arrived a bit early, thinking the first time posted on the church’s sign was the first service, but the adult Sunday school class is well worth a visit. Along with a couple of hymns and prayers, it focused on the Book of James, specifically the subjects of pride and humility. A member led the discussion with a recollection of his own experiences in these subjects, saying a non-judgmental attitude of learning is needed for personal growth.
The pastor, Olivier Broc, carried the message forward during the service. Broc said there is a maturing process involved in everything in life. He said that sometimes the process involves suffering, an aspect he said he often finds difficult to reconcile with the joy of faith. He said it can serve as a reminder of the blessings of the past, however.
“Suffering should do one thing: make us get closer to God,” he said.
The connections between Broc and his flock were clear in his extension of prayer requests and congratulations. He made note of a high school graduate, a member going in for an MRI scan in the afternoon, and a visitor taking a flight to Chad. Broc was jovial throughout, keeping the congregation laughing with a few lighthearted remarks and anecdotes. In one, he described the Bible as a living book which everyone interprets differently, recounting one incident where his wife was excitedly telling him about the message of one passage she had read.
“I read this passage, too, but it didn’t tell me that. I’m a little jealous!” he joked.
Linda Williams has been with the church since it started about 13 years ago and followed it to its different locations. She said she enjoys both the messages of the services and the church members.
“I love the church because I’m hearing the true word of God,” she said. “And the people. We’re like a family.”
Iris Jones said she also enjoys hearing Croc’s lessons and seeing fellow members. She said she looks forward to the service after a hectic week.
“When I walk through the door, I feel, ‘What a relief,’” she said. “I know the Lord is here and I’m safe.”
Broc extended a greeting to anyone wishing to attend the services.
“Anybody’s welcome, all the time anytime,” he said. “No restrictions. Just come as you are.”
Citywide Baptist Church offers Sunday services at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The morning service is preceded by adult Sunday school at 10 a.m.