Sunday, August 11, 2019

2016 Revisited: Kauai Christian Fellowship, Hawaii

They are no longer in the tent. Often, tourists who have seen the movie Soul Surfer come to this church in Kauai expecting to see a tent on the beach like in the movies, but find they’re in a building. To tell the truth, in real life the tent was on a lawn rather than a beach anyway. So if your faith was in movies, you should also know now that the Ark of the Covenant has not been rediscovered, and dinosaurs have not  been cloned using mosquito fossils.

So what did we find in visiting Kauai Christian Fellowship? A loving body of believers that happen to meet in one of the more beautiful places in Creation.

I admit to a bit of confusion when we were looking for this church before our trip began. My niece, Janae, was good friends with a pastor’s daughter in Kauai. I knew this was the church that Bethany Hamilton, of Soul Surfer book and movie fame, had attended. But there was some Google confusion when we tried to search the church. Turns out, Pastor Steve Thompson founded North Shore Christian Fellowship (aka Tent Church, aka Soul Surfer Church), which recently affiliated with a church on the South Shore of Kauai, Kauai Christian Fellowship, and now both campuses use that name.

Sunday morning, we entered a gymnasium rather than a tent. The north shore campus of Kauai Christian Fellowship meets on the grounds of a Christian school, using the gym for worship and a classroom for Sunday School. Before the service, a ukulele choir played and sang a number of songs (including “How Great Thou Art” sung in Hawaiian and English).

It is often our practice to sit in the back of the congregation, all the better for quiet observation. But I hadn’t worn my glasses, so I decided I needed to sit up front in order to read the screen. There was a bonus with this choice, because the front rows are composed of couches and comfy chairs. There are also round tables along the sides set with snacks. (Both are designed to discourage people from huddling in the back rows.)

The service didn’t start on the button at 9:30, but mainlanders find they must adjust to “Island time” when they come to Kauai. After some singing, Pastor Steve introduced the time of communion. All believers in Jesus as Lord were invited to come to the table and take a piece of bread and a cup and return to their seats, he said, then all would eat and drink together. (A woman in our row was holding a small child, so I offered to bring back communion for her. She gladly accepted. Her name was Millie, and I’ll quote her later.)

When it was time to collect cups, we passed ours to a five year old carrying the baskets. Kauai Christian Fellowship operates on the philosophy that the Church is a family, and everyone in the family has chores to do. Therefore, there is an effort to find age appropriate tasks for everyone, including children and teens. (After the worship service, at least one kid requested the task of drinking the leftover grape juice.)

Adam Ayers, an anthropologist and a pastor from Southern California, was the guest speaker. (There are congregations where the senior pastor tenaciously holds the pulpit, and only reluctantly allows others to preach. Kauai Christian Fellowship has a different way of doing things. There are three teaching pastors, Kahu Steve Thompson of the North Campus, and Rick Bundschuh and Dain Spore of the South Campus rotate most of the speaking duties on both campuses, but other guests and staff members take shifts as well.)

Ayers began his sermon with a current event on the minds of many on the island. He asked people to raise their hands if they knew what he was talking about when he said, “Mark Zuckerberg” and “fence.” He asked those who didn’t raise their hands to ask hand raisers for an explanation. You see, Zuckerberg recently purchased a 700 acre property and is surrounding that land with a six-foot high privacy fence. Ayers remarked that there seemed to be a dichotomy between someone making a fortune mining the privacy of others at Facebook and then seeking privacy for himself. Ayers said before we judge too quickly, we should recognize that we all live with some degree of hypocrisy, especially those of us in the Church.

He quoted A. W. Tozer, who said, “Christians don’t tell lies -- they just go to church and sing them.” Christians speak of Bible words like “freedom” and “humility,” Dr. Ayers pointed out, but they seem understand them as poorly as Vizzini understood the word “inconceivable” in The Princess Bride. But there are signs of hope -- Dr. Ayers said he wanted to tell about the most moving communion moment he had ever seen. (He prefaced this by mentioning a wonderful communion moment from that morning when a junior high boy dashed to the table to make sure he didn’t miss out.)

In the eighties, Ayers was in a small group that was also attended by a man named Bill. Bill was a schizophrenic who would, during group discussions,  ask whether he was sounding crazy or not. He had contracted AIDS. Back then, no one was sure what caused AIDS or how HIV was spread, and fear was rampant. The group was sharing communion, all drinking from a common cup. Bill was unsure whether he was welcome to drink from the cup with the others, but he did. And the person who took the cup from Bill made a point of drinking from the same portion of the rim of the cup. It showed some people do understand what the words “Body of Christ” mean.

After the service at Kauai Christian Fellowship North, what was called “snacks” but was really a small meal was served. People apologized for the smaller than usual selection (it l with a couple of explanations. One was that the next day was the Fourth of July Picnic at the beach when a large meal would be served. (Which was true. There were bounteous servings of hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, chips and salads.) Another explanation was that in the summer when surf was up, some wouldn’t stay for eating and cleaning up but were quick to dash for the beach.

While waiting in line to eat and also during the meal, I had the opportunity to ask a number of people why they came to Kauai Christian Fellowship, North Campus. Millie (our communion neighbor) said she was an unusual case. She came because her husband was on staff as a worship leader. But she still told me something she appreciated about the church. She said previously, they had been at a megachurch of thousands in Las Vegas. There, things were done on a “transactional basis.” But here, she said, she was immediately treated as family. People offered to babysit and wouldn’t consider being paid. People brought food when their family moved in without looking for anything in return.

That theme of family returned with many people I spoke with. Heidi (a church greeter) said that when she first came to the area, she found other churches with solid teaching, which she also found at KCF. But when she came to the after church meals, she found “instant family”.

I talked to a woman named Sailor who said she had been at a church before that didn’t have older people. She appreciated coming to this church, where she found older people and younger people, because that was more family like. She also loved Kahu (Pastor) Steve’s teaching, which she said was focused on “the love of God.”  I talked to many people who spoke of Steve’s gentle spirit and  focus on God’s grace. (Someone mentioned that a few years before, a small group had tried to force legalism into the church but “they crashed on the rock of Steve’s solid grace.”)

Mason, the worship pastor on the North Campus (and Millie’s husband), said that family focus was part of the church culture, but was also part of the island culture. Everyone considers themselves the “uncle” or “auntie” of all the children. After church we saw children on skateboards on the concrete floor of the worship area, with all adults keeping a watchful eye on them. At the beach, everyone’s children were entrusted to the other loving adults when parents were busy with other tasks.

Formality is not a high priority. I talked to Rick Bundschuh, teaching pastor at the South Campus, about their membership process. They invite people who’ve started attending to a big party where they are told about the church, its goals and methods. If people want to become a part of things, they are given a key to the property. Hundreds of people have keys to the buildings. “If we err, we’d prefer to err on the side of trust,” Rick said.

Oh, and if you were wondering if Bethany Hamilton was at the service, she wasn’t. She still comes on occasion, but she’s married, has a child, and has a number of other commitments, many of them off-island. For a time she had to deal with tourists who would come to church just to see her, so she started arriving late and leaving early to avoid distracting others. But a number of people we talked to (inside and outside of the church) talked about what a gracious person she was. Kahu Steve spoke of her ministry to women who have lost a limb (it’s called “Beautifully Flawed”) and the joy she has working with the Make a Wish Foundation when they bring groups to Hawaii. It seems she is a wonderful representation to the public of the kind of ministry her church has been doing for a long time.

Service Length: 1 hour 5 minutes
Sermon Length: 27 minutes
Visitor Treatment: During an announcement time before the sermon, Pastor Rick told the congregation to look around and "meet somebody you don't know." Everyone was invited to an Independence Day picnic at the beach the next day. There wasn't (as far as I could tell) any way of recording who was in attendance or any visitors.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 115
Probably Ushers' Count: 125
Snacks: coffee, water, and (for sale) specialty coffee drinks. A variety of sweets and treats as well as a meat stew covered the snack table.
Musicians: keyboard, bass, percussion box, and electric guitar (all men)

Songs: "Nu 'Ole" ("Glad Tidings) ukulele band prelude
"'Ekolu Mea Niu" ("Three Greatest Things") ukulele band prelude
"Hoe Amau" ("Pull for the Shore") ukulele band prelude
"How Great Thou Art" ukulele band prelude
"Na Iesu" ("I Know Whom I Have Believed") ukulele band prelude
"Hallelujah, Your Love is Amazing"
"Good, Good Father"
"Holy is the Lord"
"Be Thou my Vision"
"Bless the Lord, O, my Soul"
Distance to Church: 16 miles
Miles from Start: 27,341
Total 2016 Miles: 27,045
Church Website:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

That time we met Toni Morrison twice

Back in 2016 when we were visiting a bar and a church in every state, we found ourselves at a bar in Washington state with our three children. Both daughters, without realizing it, chose the same pseudonym.

The Three Lions Pub, Redmond, Washington
Every family cherishes, I’m sure, their first trip to a bar together. Okay, maybe not. I’m not sure, since it wasn’t a thing in my family. But I’m sure this was our first bar visit as a family, because our youngest is now 21. Just not sure about the family cherishing thing.

Here’s how it happened: Dean and I decided we would rather see Alaska in the summer than in the winter, so we took a break from driving on the East Coast and flew from New York to Seattle to Alaska, back to Seattle overnight, and on to Hawaii. That trek complete, we decided to spend a few days in Redmond, Washington (where our daughter and son-in-law live), with the whole family, including the daughter from Brooklyn and the son from Santa Rosa.

The paragraph above is, frankly, a bit of an excuse. The main reason we walk into bars is to get into conversations with people we meet there, but this week we really just wanted to talk with our family. We hope to make it back to Washington state towards the end of the year, when we expect to talk to locals we don’t already know. But not this week.

Instead, the six of us went to The Three Lions Pub in Redmond. The place has an English theme, so yes, football was on the telly (American translation - “soccer on TV”). Guys were playing darts. (They invited Dean to play. There are weekly games, and one of the guys said, “You meet cool guys here. And some not so cool guys.” One guy raised his hand and said, “I’m one of the not cool guys.”) The drink menu is full of British references from Mary Queen of Scots to Princess Di. (As a result, our drink orders included the Churchill Margarita, Fawlty Towers, London Metro, Princess Diana, Strongbow cider, and Absolutely Fabulous.)

There was also shockingly good food. That was rather disappointing, since tasty food doesn’t seem to go with the British theme, but what can you do? Bret ordered soft pretzels with a good beer cheese dipping sauce, "Eduardo” ordered blueberry cheesecake, and Dean ordered bread pudding, but he didn’t order it in a Cockney accent, so that was a missed opportunity.

Though circumstances were quite different from our average bar visit, nothing could stop us from asking our standard questions. We even said, “What’s your first name, and feel free to lie about it," as we always do (usually, people give us their actual names, as far as we know. This time, the lies were cheerful and blatant.) Next we asked the other two standard questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go or not, what makes for a good church?”

To the second question, daughter “Toni” responded that she liked quiet places that had good music and cheap drinks -- “preferably cheap, cheap, cheap” and “ample seating because I don’t like standing. I get upset when it’s crowded.” She added that a bar should ideally have a patio. She usually gets what she wants, she said, “and if I don’t, I go to a different place.”

Eduardo said he likes “a bartender who knows what he or she is doing, good beers on tap, and a place to sit.” He also likes a quieter place, or at least “not so loud you can’t hear the person next to you.” Both agreed they wanted to be at a bar to spend time with their friends.

Toni added, “Usually the point is to hang out with friends.”

Bret said he’s looking for “decent selection of drinks, and bartenders who know what they’re doing.”

About then Dean and our other daughter, “Tonimorrison” came back from an errand. She said she looked for good food, “not too expensive but well-made drinks,” and she wanted to be able to talk to people -- “presumably the people you came with.”

We turned to the church question.

Eduardo said that the speaker should have intelligent things to say about their topic and “not rambling. I think we can all agree about that.” (I think he’s right.)

Bret said that a good church will have a firm grasp of scripture and a “relatively quick sermon that still has insight. It’s probably a good thing if the church is welcoming; you don’t want to feel like an outsider, but you don’t want to be overly welcomed.”

Tonimorrison said she thought that church is a “place for people who want to know Christ better,” and she looks for “a pastor who sincerely loves God and people,” where she can learn something and give back. When Dean asked if the learning was for old and new church goers alike, she said, “Hopefully, you’re learning from those around you. You should be growing in Christ.”

Toni said, “There should be music, but not too much. It should be easy to sing, with projected lyrics.” (There was a sound of agreement around the table at this point.) She added that the church should be “genuine, not trying to hard to be relevant” and “genuinely focused on God, not on what they think.” She said she also wants “a sermon that’s -- it’s a lot to ask -- inspired. Not offensive, not sexist, not exclusive.” A church should be service oriented, she thinks, and considerate of the various experiences of the people.

So next week we’re back to the East coast, our Dodge Caravan, and complete strangers in bars. But we wish you all from The Three Lions Pub a jolly “Pip, pip” and “Cheerio” and maybe even a “Bob’s your uncle.”

Friday, July 19, 2019

Your chance to hear us talk

The Dismantle Podcast
All week, I've been teasing that something big resulted from our time in New Jersey, and all those reposts you've been reading (thank you!) have been -- believe it or not -- background material.

A few months ago, our friend (and NJ hostess) Fiona asked us if we were interested in being interviewed by her friend Joe, who had a podcast.

Why not? we said, even though we had no idea how being interviewed for a podcast worked.

Next thing we knew, Joe was asking questions and listening politely as we babbled into the microphone on our laptop. And now, you, too, can hear us babble by listening to The Dismantle podcast.

Check out the other episodes, too! We think what Joe's doing is pretty important, and we're grateful we get to be part of it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

2016 Revisited: Darby Road Pub, Scotch Plains, NJ

Back in 2016, we figured our time in New Jersey would be memorable (if only for stops in Grovers Mills, Asbury Park, and Princeton). We certainly didn't expect a profile on another bar-visiting blog out of New Jersey. Tomorrow, find out what else our stay in New Jersey led to. For now, read about the bar we visited.

Darby Road Pub
This bar wasn’t our first choice for the evening. We googled bars in the area and found a place that looked interesting, perhaps more of a nightclub than a bar, but different from places we’d been to before. We got a late start, after 10:00 pm, and we drove to a neighborhood that looked a little seedy. As we were looking for parking, we noticed pedestrians that seemed to be making business transactions with people in vehicles. Mindy said that maybe this wasn’t the place to be, having a preference for being safe. So we turned around and went to a place our hosts had suggested, Darby Road Public House and Restaurant.

At that hour, the restaurant part of Darby’s was in little evidence. A decent sized crowd of people was gathered around the bar for drinks. There were banners all about for various sports franchises. There were at least seven TVs playing, and when we came in I saw soccer and New York baseball on the screens. I was quite pleased when a couple of the TVs went from commercials to the Stanley Cup Finals: Sharks vs. Penguins. I’ve never been a big NHL fan, but a little home town pride (“home Bay Area pride?”) kicks when you’ve been on the road for months.

We seated ourselves at the bar and were soon greeted by Ryan the bartender. He gave us water and the bar menu. Frankly, we were looking for cheap drinks, and the menu supplied some relatively inexpensive options. Mindy ordered Youngs Double Chocolate Stout, and I order Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Things seemed to be slowing down a bit for Ryan, so we asked if we could ask him some questions. (Questions in addition to, “Can we ask you some questions?”)

In response to our first question, “What makes for a good bar?”, Ryan did not answer with the word 90% of bartenders seem to respond with, “bartender.” He said what he thought was important was a combination of atmosphere and service. I asked him to be more specific about atmosphere, and he said a good atmosphere meant “you walk in and forget what you walked in from.” He likes a place that is nice and lively, a friendly meeting place where you can start a conversation. He isn’t a fan of a dingy, dive environment. Still, he prefers a place that is not too loud as a club or a “young person bar.” (“I had four years of that,” he said.)

After thinking about it for a bit longer, he said he’d give an edge to the importance of service over atmosphere. “It can be a really cool place, but if you wait fifteen minutes and no one takes your drink order, you’ll leave.” He said that service needs to be good across the board, not just the bartender but also the wait staff and the barbacks.

But he said that service involved more than just taking orders and making drinks correctly. A bartender has social obligations. He didn’t say it, but he certainly would have considered politely answering our questions as part of his job. “If you’re backed up with a big  crowd, you don’t have time to talk with customers, but if it’s slow, it’s part of the job.” He told a story about training a young woman behind the bar. A group of guys came in, and he asked her to take their order because, he told her, “They’d rather order from you than me.” She came back a little upset because she felt the guys had been hitting on her. Ryan told her that’s part of the job. You don’t give out your phone number or go home with a guest, but flirting can be part of the job. (This reminded me of the time a woman bartender friend of mine was told by her supervisor she should fasten her blouse a couple of buttons higher. She did what she was told, but she knew it would cost her in tips.)

“A person might not be a great bartender as far as drinks go, but if they’re friendly and make you feel welcome, they’ll do okay,” Ryan said.

We then asked Ryan our other question, “What makes for a good church?”

He answered, “I guess I would say, as odd as it sounds, about the same thing as a bar.” (Which didn’t sound odd to us at all.) He’d look for a place that was comfortable, felt safe, and where you can have a good conversation. “It has some parallels.”

We approached a guy who was sitting alone, Jeremy. He seemed friendly enough, but was slow to answer our questions. When his friend, Melissa, returned, we realized this was because English was not his first language. He was from Paraguay. Melissa, a local, was able to help with translation between English and Spanish.

In answer to our bar question, Jeremy said it depends on what a person liked. He liked that there was soccer playing on some of the TVs. He said bars are different in Paraguay than the U.S. because the people are different (“People are more educated here”).  Melissa said she likes a unique environment, and as an example, added, “this place has a soccer thing going.”

As for what makes for a good church, Jeremy said it is a pastor that gives good sermons. Melissa said it is a sense of community.

We then talked to two women at the bar, Andrea and Dari, who were watching the hockey game. They were none too pleased that the Sharks had a 3-2 lead in the third period, but they were still willing to talk. As soon as we mentioned that we are visiting a church and a bar in every state, Andrea advocated for a visit to her church, the Mountainside campus of Liquid Church. She told us that it’s not like a traditional church, and that it’s young and loud. She said it had recently been mentioned on the Today show when the pastor used Star Wars as an introduction to the nativity story. We enjoyed her enthusiasm. Both women let us know they are Christians.

We went on with our what makes for a good bar question. Andrea said, “Personally, I like mine a little divy. I like the people down to earth and the drinks inexpensive.” She went on to explain how her history led to this preference. When she was a little girl, her grandparents in West Virginia would take her and her sister to the local dive bar. The girls were always fussed over by other patrons and given snacks. She said there’s a local wine bar in town this is lovely. But it’s very formal, and it’s not for her. She doesn’t feel at home there.

Dari, on the other hand, likes a bar that is friendly, with an attentive staff that is customer oriented.

For what makes for a good church, Dari said it doesn’t judge people. She said that people in a church shouldn’t judge whether someone goes to heaven based on their religion, because the Bible doesn’t teach that. A good church teaches God’s Word. She also talked about the importance of holding the leadership of a church accountable. People need to build each other up and hold each other up.

Andrea said that her church practices being the hands and feet of Christ and reaches out to people. They recently sent a missions team to Rwanda, and they bought a drill for water wells. She appreciates the slogan of Liquid, that they are their to minister to “The Last, the Lost and the Least.” She said, “Jesus got his hands dirty.”

Dari added that she can’t stand a church that is based on religion rather than faith in Christ. “A dead church worries about religion. I don’t like religion.” She can’t stand people calling each other “Brother” and “Sister” and using religious language. “I detest churchiness. In my ideal church, I want to see tattoos, I want to see piercings, and I want to see people of different colors and races. It should be like heaven.”

Off topic from bar and church, Andrea wanted to talk to us about blogging. She likes to write and thinks someday she’ll have a book in her. For now, she’s considering using her knack for storytelling for a blog, but a fear of failure has been keeping her back. Her husband told her that shouldn’t keep her back. We told her we agreed with him and encouraged her to give it a shot. So all of you in internet-land, keep an eye out for this fine blog of the future. We’re thankful for this blog that let us meet the good people at Darby Road.

Monday, July 15, 2019

2016 Revisited: Terrill Road Bible Chapel, Fanwood, New Jersey

Terrill Road Bible Chapel, Fanwood, New Jersey
Back in 2016, we needed help to find a church to visit in New Jersey. Thanks to friends of missionary friends, we found ourselves visiting this church and getting to know some of the very welcoming people who are part of the assembly of Terrill Road Bible Chapel. 

We had no idea how far-reaching that visit would turn out to be. Our hosts introduced us to their family, their church fellowship, the Jersey Shore, (and our favorite sermon illustration), and CCML.  Over the next couple of days, we'll be sharing a few other results of our stay in New Jersey.

Terrill Road Bible Chapel
A few weeks ago, I asked a woman in a bar what would make for a good church. She replied, "No priest, no minister, no pastor!" Well good news, Jeanie of Delaware, I've got a church for you!

Terrill Road Bible Chapel was built in Fanwood, New Jersey in 1957, but the Brethren Assembly that worships there has more than a century's worth of roots in the area. The assembly (the preferred term for what we grew up calling the "church" or the "congregation") is associated with the Plymouth Brethren, but Brethren don't seem big on formal ecclesiastical ties of any kind.

We attended the Wednesday night Bible study, where the group is working their way through the book of Hebrews. After a bit of a spirited discussion about whether Hebrews 6:4-6 taught that believers could "lose their salvation," Steve, the study leader, approached the issue with a clear stance of "eternal security." A couple of people respectfully challenged his position, and I was impressed by the biblical knowledge of many in the group of 20.

Also in that same meeting, there was sheet of paper filled with prayer requests. One side was chiefly requests by members of the Assembly, while the other was missionary and ministry requests. After about fifteen minutes of sharing prayer request information, the group spent another fifteen minutes to pray for those requests. (During the Thursday morning men's prayer meeting, we also prayed through that list.)

We were happy to be allowed to join in on the Saturday morning Chapel work day. Thirty people, about a third of the Assembly, showed up to work on the house and grounds. Mindy wiped down kitchen counters while I got to work on the street sign. Officially, the start time was 8:00 am, but some of the window washers arrived closer to 6:00 am. Before noon, everything was in good shape for the afternoon "Ping Pong por Pequenos."

For the past five years, the table tennis tourney has been an annual event, raising money to send Ecuadorean kids to a summer camp. Anyone can compete as a self-proclaimed professional or Forrest Gump (which, from what I remember of the film, should be the pro level, but never mind). Neither Mindy nor I wond the championship belt, but the event raised more than two thousand dollars, so we're okay with that. (If you would like to help Ecuadorean or low-income New Jersey kids with the cost of camp, contact the good folks at the Chapel.)

You may have noticed on the church sign that the names of the worship services are different than at many other churches. The 9:15 am worship is called "The Breaking of the Bread," while the 11:00 am is called "Family Bible Hour." Every week, the first service is a celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is a time of songs and scripture readings, the bread and the cup...but no sermon. Men in the assembly suggest hymns, which are sung without instrumental accompaniment. Other men stand and read Scripture, briefly commenting on it. There are many stretches of silence between the hymns and readings. After about 45 minutes, the bread and cups of juice and wine are passed among the seated assembly, and the service is concluded with a hymn, prayer, and announcements. Some people leave after this service, but many go downstairs for coffee and refreshments.

The Family Bible Hour is when the sermon is preached. First there are hymns and songs with instrumental accompaniment, then announcements again, then the sermon. This morning an itinerant preacher, Ken, concluded a two week sermon series, "Discerning the Will of God."

Not on the sign (but on the calendar on the website) is a third service, "Second Session." Most, but not all, Sundays the assembly goes to the fellowship room in the basement for sack lunches. After a brief lunchtime, the morning preacher continues his teaching, either with more preaching or with a question and answer time.

During the snack time after the breaking of bread, I was able to talk to people about what they appreciated about TRBC. Ben is a homeschool student between his junior and senior years of high school. I asked what he liked about the church, and he said he likes the variety of preaching. Since there is no pastoral staff, there's a rotation of preachers,  usually one of the elders in the assembly. There is no paid staff in most Brethren churches, and only men preach. The Brethren try to replicate New Testament worship, including Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women should remain silent in church.

Ben could have attended the high school Sunday school class, but though he likes the people who teach the class, he prefers to hear the adult teaching. Something else he likes about TRBC? Lots of food.

I also spoke with Ken Barrett, the morning's speaker, before the Family Bible Hour. During the week, he works fulltime as a high school history teacher, while on the weekends, he preaches at various churches.  I asked what he appreciated about Brethren Assemblies in general. He said one of the best things about the Brethren is, "they're not trendy." Brethren churches are consistent.

Two things, he said, have always been values in Brethren assemblies that are hot trends in other churches. One would be a high regard of for the Lord's Supper. In this regard, the Brethren are similar to Roman Catholics in the central place Communion plays in the life of the Church. The other value is the priesthood of all believers. In this way, the Brethren are quite different from Roman Catholics. Individual assemblies have no denominational authority over them, and a board of elders rather than a paid clergyperson leads the group.

Ken said this assembly does well at following tradition without letting it become rote and lifeless.

I should mention how we came to TRBC, especially since it was a topic of conversation throughout our time together. Friends we stayed with in Florida contacted friends who suggested the church and their friends who worship there. We contacted the church, their friends contacted strangers welcomed us into their home and into their church. You might wonder what prompts people to that kind of hospitality.

Well, our host, Allan Wilks, decided in 2013 to walk from Scotch Plains, NJ, to his former home town of Toronto, Canada. Along the way, a number of people welcomed him into their home and he wanted to imitate that hospitality. The Wilkses also remember Hebrews 13:2 "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers." In fact, the whole assembly of TRBC values the Word of God and visibly seeks to honor and obey it.

The Lord's Supper assembly
Service Length: 1 hour 12 minutes
Visitor Treatment: we were greeted at the door and introduced during the service by our hosts. Mindy also found a guest book and signed it. Many people chatted with us during the snack time.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 75
Probable Ushers' Count: 80
Snacks: coffee, hot water for tea or hot chocolate, gold fish crackers, water, coffee cake, watermelon, bagels, tangerines, other pastries and fruit.
Musicians: none
Songs: "Jesus Lord, We Know Thee Present"
"Praise the Savior"
"Holy, Holy, Holy"
"Everlasting Glory be"
"I've Found a Friend"
Distance to church: 2 miles
Miles from start: 14,987
Total 2016 Miles: 14,690
Church website:

Family Bible Hour
Service Length: 58 minutes
Sermon Length: 38 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Dean was asked to share briefly about what we're doing this year. A number of people talked to us during the lunch time.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 63
Probable Ushers' Count: 75
Snacks: people brought sack lunches and food to share (either with the table where they were eating or on a table meant for all). Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water were available as well.
Musicians: acoustic guitar (man), bongos (man)
Songs: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"

"My Savior and my God"