I was not raised in the church. Although as a child I was dropped off on Sunday mornings for CCD and mass; I never felt a sense of community, understood a message or felt any connection to the Catholic Church or God as a child. As soon as I made my confirmation, I never went back. My mom was a single parent, and she wanted me just to fit in. As always, she had the best intentions.
Fast forward 15 years, my husband and I have called a few different churches our home. But this morning, for the first time in my life, I truly experienced church.
My daughters and two of my closest friends went to Swissvale to worship at a friend’s church. I am not sure that I can even come up with the right words to describe this experience, but when we approached the door at Union Baptist Church of Swissvale we were immediately greeted and embraced with a hug. Every person we passed made eye contact and welcomed us…and more hugs.
When we entered the chapel, you could feel the warmth and love. The choir started, and I experienced what it was like to feel a presence, to move without actually moving. The power of every word, every verse in this little Baptist church spoke to me. The enthusiasm, joy, and passion as everyone sang and danced were contagious. This church defines the word worship. The service was so explosive you could feel the emotion, compassion, and empathy in the air. When the pastor spoke, the all African American congregation was engaged, and the service was interactive instead of just listening to a speech. During the middle of the service, the entire church started singing a little Dionne Warwick and Bill Withers. The experience was profound.
When the service was over, the congregation did not make a mad dash to the door. Everyone stayed and wanted to be together. We were again greeted by each person, hugged and thanked for coming to share the service. Are you kidding me? We were the ones that should be thanking all of them.
We were escorted to the basement to meet more of the church family, the pastor and of course drink the punch. This church is what I believe Jesus intended the church to be, a community of people that unconditionally loves and embraces anybody and everybody. This is the type of church that does not judge nor condemns. This is the type of church that cannot be replicated.
I truly look forward to going back.