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Where two or three gather

I love tourists. While we have always welcomed them to come in and see our church, on a hot day 20 years ago we opened up the front doors and visitors seemed to flock.  

When weather permits, we have tried to keep the doors wide open ever since. We now have hundreds of tourists visit during these summer months.
Most are in a pretty good mood, relaxed, and able to spend some of their free time enjoying the building. Some like the architecture. Some are searching for ancestors. Others just like to take a quiet moment. We invite them to explore this place that we love.
I enjoy our brief interactions. Some come with their maps. They can hardly pronounce “Amherst” let along Tatamagouche, Shinimicas, or some of the other local tongue twisters that we don’t even think about. I enjoy their naivety about our area, our customs, our way of doing things. I enjoy their astonishment that not only is their no snow, but it actually can get warm here in the summer! I love when they ask what 23 degrees is in real temperature.
Many also bring stories from their own congregations. Some have terrific music programs, kid’s programs, outreach for seniors. Some struggle with finances, attendance, attracting youth. Some tell of great successes, others of dismal failures they have experienced in their church. Some have multiple staff while others struggle to keep a lone clergy. Some have experienced great growth. Others have endured a church split. Some praise their dedicated volunteers, while others complain that nobody will lend a hand anymore.
I hear in their stories both excitement and heartbreak. Both disappointment and hope.
A couple things are clear to me: The church universal is really a miracle. How God has been able to use very human beings to spread His message of love, compassion, forgiveness and peace for centuries is astonishing. Despite our selfish, self-serving tendencies, the church continues to thrive. Sometimes attendance is up. Sometimes it’s down. Society can be fairly fickle, but through all the latest trends, the Church is a constant. The fact that a congregation can not only survive but actually accomplish anything is astonishing proof of divinity.
The other thing that is clear is that every church has a unique story to tell. How God is working in and through the lives of it’s members. Continuing to stretch and grow and make a difference in their corner of this great big world. To bloom where we’re planted.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name,
there I am among them.” Matthew 18:20

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