I guess I shouldn’t think it’s ironic that I found this week’s connection to spirituality in a bar called the Chapel Tavern, but … well, how can I not? I was chatting with the bartender and his father on Saturday night, and somehow the conversation turned toward church. (It probably went something like, “I’d better get out of here, I have to go to church in the morning. Where do you guys go to church? Know where I can get some B-12?")
At any rate, they mentioned the former First Baptist Church of Reno, which recently changed its name, its mission and its pastor. And there I was on Sunday morning, lucky enough to hear the first official sermon by Pastor Bill West. But that particular Sunday was also special for other reasons. For example, since the regular musical worship team was out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, the congregation was treated to the beautiful singing of a trio of women, led by Maggie Folkers, with Jana Eng and Angie Torres providing stunning harmonies.
I arrived early and took a seat near the rear of the sanctuary. There was rockin’ contemporary Christian music playing overhead. The sanctuary layout is fairly standard, about 32 padded pews, a peaked ceiling, a large cross at the front, baptistery to the left, a screen for announcements, song lyrics and Bible passages hung above and to the right. There was a huge Christmas tree. Christmas wreaths and poinsettias also served to announce the season. Two girls played Hide ‘n’ Go Seek through the sanctuary, laughing and screeching, “Time out, time out,” in a way that would have gotten me sent to the rectory but that totally set me at my ease. Mom and dad were even laughing with them.
As the congregation filtered in, the noise level became almost cacophonous, more laughter and hugs and heartfelt greetings. One large bald gentleman flirtatiously said to two older women, “And how are you beautiful women doing this morning?” One replied, “There’s nothing wrong with your eyes, is there?”
Are you catching my drift? Incredible feeling of friendly family camaraderie. And I guess some of that could be attributed to the fact that so many family members from out of town were in attendance, but I believe it’s also part of the character of this group, and I think Pastor West, formerly of Nashville, Tenn., will fit right in.
Anyway, the service proceeded as most Baptist services do, but with a contemporary non-denominational flair.
The sermon focused on temptations we all battle. Pastor West has a homespun style, working in topical examples and personal anecdotes to illustrate the points, in addition to the Bible stories. For each story, for example, in the Luke 17: 11-19 passage where Jesus healed the 10 lepers, but only one, a Samaritan, returned to thank him, he contextualized leprosy and Samaritans. This particular passage also hearkened back to the “theme” of the day: gratitude.
Pastor West listed the temptations as: complaining (not being satisfied with what I have); selfishness (keeping what I have for me); demanding (thinking that I deserve more); comparison (wanting what others have); and ingratitude (taking what I have for granted and expecting more to come).
I found myself agreeing with many things Pastor West had to say in his sermon: “We live in a culture that will take us and throw us down.” But more of the sermon was about positive, hopeful things like family, Thanksgiving, the future of the congregation and its role in outreach and welcoming in Reno.
“When gratitude is in place, we become passionate worshippers,” he said.