Yesterday, before Tom and I left Anniston AL, we went to worship at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. St. Mark’s was the closest UMC to where we were staying, and we needed to get on the road. There were two worship services at St. Mark’s and we picked the early service at 9 a.m. On their web site, this is listed as the contemporary service. We arrived at the church about 10 minutes early and Tom almost turned around again, because there were only a handful of cars in the parking lot. The sign in front of the church, however, said that the worship services were at 9 and 11, so I persuaded him to go in.
We were greeted at the door by Rev. Robert “Sonny” Champion. He led us into the sanctuary and introduced us to some other people. The band was warming up a little – guitar, bass, and keyboard. After a few minutes, one of the band members asked the congregation what we felt like singing. Rev. Champion had mentioned something about the usual band not being there, but we couldn’t tell which members of the band were regulars and which were substitutes. All of them were good musicians, and once they picked three songs worship began.
We sang three hymns, with a bit of a country twist, appropriate for Alabama. During the singing a few more people came into the sanctuary, so that there were about 20 of us all together. Rev. Champion prayed, we took up the offering, and then the sermon started.
The text for the day was Luke 14:1-6, about Jesus being invited to the house of some Pharisees and healing a man on the Sabbath. Rev. Champion asked an interesting question – where did the man with dropsy come from? It is obvious from the text that he wasn’t a guest at the meal. Rev. Champion suggested he was purposefully invited by the Pharisees as a test – would Jesus break the Sabbath law in order to show mercy to a sick man? This was the theme of the sermon: people are more important than rules, even God’s rules. Mercy has to override judgment. The sermon was short and sweet, but contained a lot of good thoughts. Rev. Champion included a quote from Albert Einstein which I really liked, “Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”
After the sermon we had communion, which only took a few minutes. Then we sang “Awesome God,” received the benediction and were done in 30 minutes. Rev. Champion had warned us before the service that it would be short because they were having a congregational meeting between services about some Charge Conference business. Short was okay with us, especially when the short service was so good.
We enjoyed visiting at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. The people were friendly and we had a nice conversation with Rev. Champion. The church was getting ready for Charge Conference (on the list of things I DON’T miss) and celebrating World Communion Sunday – the usual United Methodist stuff for the first Sunday in October. We were done in plenty of time to get checked out of our campsite before the 11 a.m. deadline.