Shepherd Road Presbyterian Church
Whenever you shake someone's hand, there's a time when you know it's time to let go. Ever have someone hang on a bit longer? When I shook Bud's hand (the Walmart greeter), I went through three periods of thinking, 'Now it's time to let go.' After the first time it gets uncomfortable and the feeling rises exponentially after each aborted release. But Bud passed the friendly test handily.
SRPC is a brick building with cathedral ceilings, white, over pale blue flooring and padded pews. At the raised altar area a pianist played as the faithful (around 70) gathered. I surveyed the crowd and felt quite young. However we are in Florida, where the mean age is probably over a hundred. Very few people in this church under sixty.
The choir, dressed in blue and cream robes, started the service with 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,' sung to canned music. Well, we are in the traditional service. They led us in 'Great is The Lord,' and 'How Majestic is Your Name,' with piano and flute accompanists. I wonder what the contemporary service sings.
The pastor led us in the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. I consistently whine about singing the old songs, but staunchly hold on to those two, a great statement of faith and a prayer taught by the Great One.
A soloist sang a compelling song about the fear in David and Peter's minds as one faced a giant named Goliath and the other stepped out of a boat and into a storm. He related it to facing the giants and waves, in my mind, a great song.
Another special event took place, as their local missionary to Haiti updated what's going on there and how their support is working. I've been to Haiti a half dozen times, so this got my attention. They are finishing a church building that had languished, and have a micro loan program underway that helps five hundred people. The loan program gives them the opportunity to present the gospel. I like the program myself, because you can't just go and save people. Pretty hard to accept Christ when you're scratching out an existence. The support puts legs on love.
The man presented a plaque that the locals carved (actually, a deaf mute man carved it) to show their appreciation for the church and their support. Very nice, as they have such little means to provide a gift to their benefactors. The pastor invited the crowd to check it out after the service, and around a fourth of them did so.
Being a numbers guy, I got a treat, as they provided copies of their budget for peoples' perusal. Next week they'll vote on it. It reflects a six percent reduction this year, raising my red flag that perhaps the church is dying. Six percent isn't much, but if it is a trend, there could be trouble.
This budget provided each person's salary and benefits, a first. Most churches hide it in a line item. And the budget was exhaustive, giving great detail to each ministry and their costs.
A very nice church, friendly white and graying, but I'm afraid as the Greatest Generation marches onward to glory, the church will find itself with more and more empty pews.