Serving an international church is endlessly interesting.
I really wish I had started at the beginning to list and catalog all of the many curious, fascinating, and sometimes disturbing events in the life of a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national congregation. With more than two dozen nationalities in worship on any given Sunday, a great deal can happen, often memorable.
Like what happened yesterday.
Some newcomers – we have a lot, which is nice – arrived at the church for worship and noticed that there was a “coffee hour” taking place on the patio in front of the church.
Odd, they thought, that the “coffee hour” would be taking place before church, so being curious or eager to fit in or whatever it was, they approached – only to discover that everyone was speaking French and drinking wine. Even odder – to them – was the fact that worship seemed to be starting inside. They could hear the organ playing, and they could hear people singing. So, what were all of these people doing outside and drinking – at mid-day for heaven’s sake?
At that point, the newcomers did what seemed to them to be the right and decent thing to do. They found someone with a name tag and complained.
They found it “just plain rude,” they said, that everyone was speaking French, and they found it “most unusual” – a slightly judgmental use of those words – that people would stand around and drink wine before Sunday morning worship.
They did not have to supply the question, “What kind of a church is this?”
The person with the name tag turned out to be our “safety officer” for the day, and he patiently explained that the French people out on the patio were most likely members of the French Reformed Church. It was their building, after all, he said. The English-speaking congregation rents the space from them. And, he added, the French speakers were allowed to do pretty much whatever they wanted on their patio, as long as the English speakers were allowed to enter the church by 11:00.
Can you imagine the conversation that these newcomers had later in the day?
(Photo: That’s the front of the French Church where all of the rude behavior takes place.)