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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Worship (corporate) (10/04/07)

TITLE: Welcome Home
By Catrina Bradley


Hannah fought the onslaught of merry parishioners leaving the early service and took the bulletin offered by the smiling volunteer. Despite the fact that the same tall, grey-haired man had been standing at the entrance to the worship center every Sunday for the past eight years, he had never said more than “good morning’ to her. This Sunday was no different, but Hannah was still delighted to be there.

She liked sitting up front; this early it was sparsely populated. As people chose seats around her, Hannah smiled and greeted each one. They answered her, then turned back to their friends and conversations. She watched the slide show deliver greetings and church news, and read the announcements of upcoming events and mission trips twice as she hummed along with the praise music playing on the loud speakers. Hannah looked around hopefully, but no one seemed to notice her. She was surrounded by laughter and friendly conversations. She worshiped alone in a crowd of hundreds.

Soon, the music minister stepped to the pulpit and welcomed everyone. Hannah loved to sing, and joyfully lifted her praises with rest of the congregation. I’m here for God. I don’t care if no one knows me, she told herself, Half of it was a lie; she desperately wanted to belong.

During communion, Hannah poured her heart out to her Abba Father, confessing her selfishness and His greatness, committing herself to be His servant.

The preacher’s message, as always, lifted and fed her, and when the invitation was given she longed to approach the altar. Why do I continue to sit here, glued to my chair, week after week? She waited for an answer, but none came.

When the service was over, she stopped to shake the preacher’s hand. Sometimes his forehead wrinkled as he tried to place her, but most times, like today, he just spoke a hasty word of kindness and looked to the next person. “Bill! Good to see you this morning. How is Josh doing in boot camp?”

Hannah moved on, wishing he knew her name and her life, too.

The following Sunday, a crash of thunder woke Hannah. A blank screen stared at her from the clock radio. She found her cell phone on the nightstand and squinted at it. 10:35! She’d be so late! She rolled out of bed and dashed through the shower. An up-do and a dab of mascara would suffice.

The clock in her car read 10:58 as she passed the old brick church on the square. Her church was still fifteen minutes away. On impulse, she pulled into the parking lot.

A “Visitor” spot was waiting for her in front, and she speed-walked to the worship center. A grinning usher opened the door.

“Welcome to Grace Church. I’m Jim.”

“Good morning, I’m Hannah. Sorry to cut it so short.”

“No worries, Hannah. We’re glad you’re here. Let’s find you a seat, ok?” Jim walked her to a pew toward the middle, and spoke to the man sitting at the end. A murmur was passed down the row, and a space was made for her. Her apologies were met with forgiveness as she scrambled over feet and settled in.

Before Hannah had a chance to fully absorb the soaring bead-board ceilings and the sun-lit stained glass, the familiar routine of church began. The welcome from the pulpit was hearty and heartfelt. Visitors were then asked to stay seated “so we can find you”, while members stood in honor of their guests.

Everyone in proximity of Hannah reached for her hand and asked her name. She received three invitations to Sunday School and two for Wednesday dinner. Jim the usher handed her a card to fill out “so we can stay in touch with you.”

When she stood to join them in singing praises to God, tears glistened in her eyes.

The pastor’s message and his invitation spoke directly to her, and when the final hymn began, she found herself stepping into the aisle. Her feet and her heart carried her to the altar where the radiant pastor met her with outstretched arms.

“I want to join this church,” was out of her mouth before she knew she was going to speak.

“Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” the pastor asked.

“Yes,” she croaked through her tears. “I’ve loved him for a long time, but I found Him here today.”

“Welcome home, sister. Let’s pray.”

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This article has been read 1076 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dolores Stohler10/11/07
Your story is precious--not only well written but it is a perfect example of how a church should welcome strangers into their midst. Not all of them do. Don and I chose our church also because everyone was friendly and welcoming when we first attended. People need to feel a sense of belonging. Good work!
Sheri Gordon10/11/07
This is really good. You had me interested in Hannah's plight from the first sentence. What a marvelous picture of reality you paint. Nice job with the topic.
Janice Cartwright10/12/07
When we were hunting a church the difference in churches felt by Hannah was almost our exact experience. I could truly echo her thoughts, her deep desire to belong to a church family and felt joy with her when she found "home." I appreciated the subtle "mystery of His ways" also in the failure of her alarm clock and "accidental" visit to the new church.
Joanne Sher 10/13/07
You choked me up in the end! What a wonderful message woven through this piece. Your descriptions, and characterization, are great.
Laury Hubrich 10/13/07
Wow! It is an awful feeling to be all alone in a crowd of people, especially while in church. This is a very good entry. I liked the ending, too. When we were looking for a new church, I knew without a doubt when we found it, just like this woman:)
william price10/14/07
A big WOW! Nice, excuse me, Very nice job. The ending was very anointed. Impressive! God bless.
Jan Ackerson 10/14/07
Beautiful entry...I wondered why Hannah was so ignored in her first church, and thought for a while that there was something "wrong" with her--a disability perhaps? I was releived when she found her "home."
Therese Witkus10/15/07
Your story captures God's love for us and your skill draws us onto familiar ground. Eight years seems like a long wait for change and I'm glad God stepped in and helped things along.
Dee Yoder 10/15/07
Love this entry! I think many of us can relate to your MC's feelings. But you also made me think about trying harder to make visitor's feel welcome and loved at my church. Well written and sympathetic character, too.
Marilyn Schnepp 10/16/07
Loved this entry! Anything that brings me to tears and touches my heart is my "cup of tea" so to speak. Such a different atmosphere in the two churches. Great Title and right on target Topic-wise. Very well written and a triple Kudos to this author.
Joy Faire Stewart10/17/07
I could feel the MC's desire to worship and the loneliness in the crowd. Excellent writing.
Deborah Engle 10/17/07
I've been there and remember the feeling of anonymity. You shouldn't have to feel that way among believers. Good idea and good job.
Betty Castleberry10/17/07
This is very touching. I enjoyed this, and you did a great job.
George Parler 10/17/07
This is a very touching story of how people can slowly die from dehydration (lack of love and compassion) standing in a lake of people in the middle of a church. And what's even sadder is their unvoiced cries from their soul go unnoticed. I'm so glad the MC found a place where love knew she was there. Good job.
Sharlyn Guthrie10/17/07
Excellent job of creating two very different atmospheres. I'm glad your main character found a real church home.
Loren T. Lowery10/26/07
We plan, but God directs our steps...because He loves us and wants us to be with Him. What a wonderful story and message. Absoultely loved the way you told it!
Great job!