My long suffering husband and I recently checked out the Harvest Community Church in Willmar, Minnesota. We have a history with this church as we attended there in the early ’90s and our son, Peder, was “dedicated” in this denomination. This means we basically promised to raise him as a Christian. We fulfilled that promise, too.
Interestingly, after we’d left this denomination, the preacher was one of a cadre of ministers who secretly recorded our then Minnesota Senator and House Majority Leader Dean Elton Johnson concerning his thoughts on gay marriage. Shortly after the release of that conversation, Johnson lost his seat to a republican. This all transpired back in ’06.
So, I was very interested in revisiting this church and seeing what this minister was like in person.
It’s been a long time since we attended this church. Gone was the quaint little church building, it’s now housed in a former supermarket building. It’s also got a railroad motif. The sanctuary wasn’t very difficult to find, but it was very dark inside, not one window anywhere.
The people were basically friendly, the ones we spoke with were folks we already knew from our former attendance. Nobody else seemed interested in greeting new people.
About 50 people attended. With no hymnals, we were forced to follow unfamiliar music on a screen up front. I hate that. If I don’t know the song, I like to follow actual music so I can somewhat figure out the melody. In this scenario, it’s best to keep quiet rather than find yourself singing an unintentional “solo.” However, this turned out to be a minor issue because the songs were repeated so many times that by the time they finished, the melody was tattooed directly on my brain.
The service began at 10:00.
During announcements, I slipped out to find a rest room. That’s when I ran into another acquaintance who informed me that the church had recently “split.” Congregation numbers were down by around 50 percent. The congregants who left were now evidently attending various area churches. She never told me what triggered the split.
As the minister served communion, I couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable the chairs were. My feet didn’t touch the ground. I perused the audience and noted that most of the women shared my same fate. That’s very unfortunate. I wondered what I could do to keep my feet from falling asleep.
Note: I noticed a couple people wearing Jewish yarmulkes. I wondered if they were Jewish, former Jewish, or were just one of those interesting Christians who co-opt Jewish customs to feel closer to Christ. I never found out.
It’s now 10:30.
Right now, I’m annoyed. The repetitive songs are beginning to grate on my nerves. If they have a rhyme scheme, it’s cheesy. I’m mentally counting how many times I hear, “God is amaaaaaaaazing!” I’m well into the double digits. I also notice that the song becomes progressively slower as it nears its end. It also gets softer until only the musicians play and the minister murmurs some sort of prayer. It’s an interesting mix of music and spoken vocalizations.
The minister began a prayer to prep for the sermon… or so I assume. It’s 10:35. At 10:45 they pass the offering plate. I note there’s not much paper in in it.
Then, after a long prep, the sermon began. Topic: The ministry of the holy spirit.
Up next: The sermon.