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"

Sunday, July 14, 2019

2016 revisited: CCML in Wall, NJ

We originally posted this at Dean and Mindy go to church in June, 2016, while we were in New Jersey on the quest that culminated in Cheers and Amen

Thanks to Alan and Fiona, our NJ hosts, touring CMML's headquarters was only one of the fascinating experiences we had in the state. Over the next couple of days, we'll be sharing a few other results of their hospitality. 

While we were in New Jersey, we got to visit the US headquarters of CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands), which isn't a missions agency...but for the sake of missionaries around the world functions a little like one.

C: Comfortable accommodations for visiting missionaries and others who need to be in the area for a missions conference or meetings

M: Money donated to missionaries all goes to the missionary. Nothing is held back to run the organization. The missionaries have each been "commended" by Brethren Assemblies in the United States or Canada (rather than being sent through a denominational organization) and serve in a variety of capacities in countries around the world.

M: Magazinesmissionary prayer handbooks, and events are planned here, from missions conferences to magazines. This, along with processing the financial support for missionaries, is a major role CMML plays in the life of the assemblies.

L: Lots of clothes and other necessities are donated for use by missionaries and other workers who travel through the CMML guest house. Pretty much anything a person might need to wear (and a lot of other things) is available. We heard a great story about a young man who knew he'd need a tuxedo the next year for graduation from his school overseas. Though tuxedoes were rarely available, he found one when he looked. It was slightly too big...but fit just right when he graduated a year later.