Saturday, January 15, 2011
We live around a two-minute drive from a great Mediterranean marketplace. I like to head over there on Saturdays and pick up olives, hummus, loose-leaf tea, and other culinary goodies. A few weeks before Christmas, I was out with my oldest daughter and decided to stop in. As I was pulling into the parking lot, for some reason my eye caught sight of the sign in front of the brick building next door: a Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Just as I had with the Quaker house around the corner from me, I must have driven by this sign a thousand times and never really noticed it. So, much to my daughter's mortification, I grabbed her by the arm and told we were going down to check it out before we did our shopping.
There wasn't really anything to check out, much to her relief. I tried the doors and they were all locked, and the only information came from the sign out front: Sabbath School at 9:15, Worship Services at 11:00, and a Prayer Meeting on Wednesday at 7:00 pm.
I went home and looked up the Seventh-Day Adventists, and found enough of interest to make me decide that this would be the next tradition for me to explore.
So after a break from the project last weekend, I have been gearing myself up to attend the services this Sunday. I find myself more apprehensive about entering this church than I was to enter either the Quaker services or Zen group meetings. As someone who spends his time interpreting texts, and teaching others how to interpret texts--in my day job as an English professor--I tend to be dismissive of people who refuse to move beyond the literal meaning of the Bible.
The Seventh-Day Adventists believe in the six-day creation story of Genesis, and sponsor a research institute designed to demonstrate that the earth is only a few thousand years old. You can read some of their literature at the website for the Geoscience Research Institute.
In any case, while I am pretty certain that I will find myself uncomfortable with much of what the Adventists profess, I also know that growth--whether spiritual or intellectual--only comes when you are willing to hold up your most cherished beliefs and ideals and put them into dialogue with the strange and unfamiliar.
So this Saturday morning I headed back to the Mediterranean marketplace, in part to restock on hummus but in part to case around the church once more and see if I missed any additional information that I might need before attending services on Sunday morning. If there is a special hat or something I'm supposed to wear, I don't want to be the only guy not wearing it.
As I pulled into the marketplace parking lot, I was surprised to see the church's parking lot completely filled. I walked over to the church, wondering whether I had perhaps stumbled onto some Saturday event that would give me a more informal introduction to the church.
And those of you who know anything about Seventh-Day Adventists will now be anticipating the punch line here.
I looked at the main sign again, and this time I read it more clearly: Worship services, it announced were on SATURDAY at 11:00 am. It was nearly 1:00 pm at this point--which means that, next Saturday, I'm in for at least a two-hour service.
But I will be there. This week I'll do some additional research on the Adventists, and hope to report back next Sunday on my experiences at the service.