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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)

TITLE: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
By Diane Johnson
12/07/07


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Even though it’s been over 25 years ago, I can still vividly remember the first time I stepped foot into the church. I felt as though I’d left a world familiar to me on the outside and had entered inside (I don’t know via spaceship?) to an unknown world that was quite strange and alien to me. Had I supernaturally stepped into outer space? Was I actually experiencing a virtual ride of Steven Spielberg’s movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

I don’t mean any disrespect; it’s just truthfully how I felt (but stick with me on this ok?). Familiar to me was only my two sisters who steered me to one of the wooden pews housed in a fairly large sanctuary.

I was surprised how many people were laughing and hugging one another. Then the service began and all of a sudden the enormous pipe organ bellowed out a majestic melody that reverberated with authority, overfilling every crevice of the sanctuary. I was intrigued and to my astonishment, realized that the music reverberated straight in to my innards (which I now know as my soul). The organ’s powerful sound demanded acknowledgement and respect and drew out within me an awe to a Presence I was not yet introduced to.

The choir and the congregation began boisterously singing songs in a strange language (yea, ye, thee, thou, cherubim and seraphim, etc.) which I eventually learned were hymns compiled in a hymnal. And I soon realized not to get too “comfortable” sitting because we did a lot of standing, then sitting, then standing, then sitting…(which I still haven’t figured out who decided when to sit and when to stand!).

I heard many prayers that stirred my heart even though I was not personally familiar with prayer. My heart was trespassed by an unfamiliar feeling that I realized later was God's peace.

The pastor then stood with authority at the pulpit and gave a message of God's love and His Son who was a stranger to me. His name was Jesus. While the pastor preached, every so often I would hear a deep bass voice shout out an “Amen!” which startled and yet felt somehow right to me.

I don’t remember a lot of the details of the sermon that was preached, but not because it wasn’t interesting. I know it began to change me, but not until a little later did I truly understand God's saving grace and mercy. At this present time, however, I was busy checking out the people. They seemed like a different kind of species. Although they were of different ages, nationalities and status quo, they nonetheless portrayed a true sense of togetherness and joyfulness.

Then suddenly I was jolted out of my spectator status and thrust into a panic (at least for me!) as the service ended in the church’s tradition of joining hands (oh yes! mine included) and sang, “Blest be the ties that bind, our hearts in Christian love, the fellowship of kindred hearts, are like to Thee above.” Ok, now this (truly not exaggerating in my mind at this point) catapulted me further into outer space — why it had to be another dimension! I honestly remember thinking, “Who ARE these crazy people and what am I doing here!!???”

Well, praise God for it all! Since that time I can report that I have learned that the church is not the alien, but rather “the world” is. And I am so very thankful that God called me to have an encounter with Him through His church. My conversion was yes!...an out-of-this-world experience!

I am now one of them – the church! How marvelous it is to gather together in praise, worship, and draw near to God – proclaiming the good news and making disciples of all nations (and our local communities!). I will be forever grateful and thankful to God for what I call my first encounter of the third kind!

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)


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This article has been read 423 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Norma-Anne Hough12/13/07
We've all been there. Loved your account! Praise God He seeks us out while we are yet sinners.
Jan Ross12/16/07
Wonderful and powerful descriptions. I love the pipe organ as it resounds it's own language of praise (so it seems). I imagine someone never having experienced the awe of a church service like this would indeed feel like an alien. Good analogy! Christmas blessings! :)
Betty Castleberry12/16/07
I like the easy, informal style of this. Many of us can relate to it, too. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 12/16/07
Excellent telling of the church experience from an outsider's POV. It's good for us to see ourselves from a fresh set of eyes.

Try to limit your use of exclamation points--rely on your strong writing and good word choice to convey emotion. And writing as fresh as this deserves a creative, unique title.

This is a very strong entry.
Julie Ruspoli12/16/07
Wow, what a great article. Although I understand why you put your 'thoughts' into parenthesis and made it work, I would love to see them included in the sentences, it would make the story flow smoother. You are such a strong writer, I know you could do it. I really enjoyed your description of someone going to church for the first time. Great job. Keep writing for Him!
Debbie Wistrom12/17/07
Great job, especially on topic, I would have loved some more background on your MC. Keep up the good words!
JoAnne Potter12/18/07
Boy! Do I remember the day this happened to me! Thanks for the reminder.