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WRITE TEAM: So, you want to go to church

Many people at some time in their life decide to attend church services. Some parents decide that church would be a good influence on their children. Others attend the beauty and pageantry of a Christmas Eve service and want that peace in their life. Whatever the reason, let me encourage you to follow that decision. Further let me give you a few tips and hopefully answer any questions you have about what to do to follow through on this decision.

In my travels for pleasure and for work I have found myself on a Sunday in a town where I have never attended church. Attending a church service for the first time can be outright scary. So, I would encourage you to realize that for many who attend that church, they once had that same feeling about entering that building. There is a tendency when you enter a bit apprehensively to find a seat nowhere near anyone else, but don’t do that. For my first services in a church, I try to sit behind someone who looks like they belong there. It is not as much of a signal, nor does it put the pressure on either of you that a conversation must happen. Also, if your hearing is as good, or hopefully a little better, than mine, if she isn’t alone, you may hear some things that can be helpful. It also can prevent you from being the only person seated when everyone else is standing, and vice-versa.

If you are close enough to another church-goer, don’t be afraid to ask that person about things in the service that you don’t understand. Most people will love to give a quick explanation, and it actually may give them an extra feeling of having contributed to the service.

What should you wear? Casual attire is fine in most churches these days. Some men still wear suits and women-dresses, but it isn’t necessary. That doesn’t mean attending in your favorite T-shirt that should have been thrown away some time ago, or rushing to church after a vigorous workout.

How do you find out the time of church services? Many churches have a sign where these times are posted, or have them posted on a plaque on the church, or on an entrance. They really want you to know this information, so a slow walk or drive-by to get the information. Is perfectly acceptable. Others post it on the internet or social media under their church’s name. A good rule of thumb is to arrive at least 15 minutes before the service to find your way to a pew or chair and a quick look around. It isn’t necessary to get there as the usher or minister unlocks the doors (Could someone tell my wife this?)

A few more pointers — although it is nice to be greeted by a church member, you shouldn’t necessarily assume a congregation isn’t friendly if this doesn’t happen on your first visit. Church attendance is down in recent years, so some regulars aren’t used to new people attending and aren’t sure what to do when it happens. This happened to me the first time I attended a church that I soon learned was very friendly.

Any other questions — feel free to contact me. If you want to ask in person, I attend First Baptist Church on the far South Side of Ottawa. Our service starts at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Most Sundays I am there.

RODNEY VERDINE, hated by his brother-in-law, loved by many others — including his wife of 37 years, Marie — can be reached through tsloup@shawmedia.com.

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