As I’ve visited different churches in New London, it’s clear that all would like to welcome new members and keep bringing people into services. But some congregations say there are certain advantages to having smaller numbers. It’s easier to get to know people, and there’s a closer relationship between the pastor and those he preaches to.
Such is the case at the . There were only a handful of people at the service I attended last week, and about half of them were children. The sanctuary even had a certain homey feel. Perched on the top floor of a three-story building, the pews were surrounded by red and gold drapes, paintings, and tables and chairs set out in the altar area almost like a living room.
There was also a certain looseness about the service. The opening Sunday school lesson ran about half an hour over its allotted time, but blended nicely into the opening of the service. Pastor Marcus Luter said he considers both the Sunday school and Bible study sessions offered by the church to be one of its most important roles, as this education will help the congregation to better understand the word of God. The program included a page on the church’s mission and beliefs, including the infallibility of the Bible, that people are saved through the grace of God, and the goals of recruiting souls for salvation and making full use of one’s gifts to support God’s kingdom.
Luter said he considers the main portion of the service the ideal time for people to celebrate and demonstrate their praise. Although a drum set and piano went unused for this service, Luter and his wife, Stephanie, brought in cymbals and maracas to amplify the songs and hymns.
“We want the spirit to be seen,” said Luter. “We’re probably more demonstrative than other places. You see me constantly just getting up and trying to get them to express their praise.”
In his sermon, Luter focused on the lesson of the walls of Jericho from the Book of Joshua. He said people are accustomed to celebrating only when good happens, but that that the congregation will find victory through God if they have faith.
“If God has already promised you the victory, you don’t have to wait. You can shout right now,” he said.
Luter also said the congregation should not consider any problem to be insurmountable, and urged them to recognize the blessings they have rather than be dismayed over what they desire but do not have. He said they should not seek to weaken other people, but encourage them instead.
“It’s too easy to hurt somebody,” he said. “The damage you can do with your tongue, it cuts as deep as a sword.”
Mark P. Nation said he only began attending services about a month ago, but that he enjoys Luter’s services and the other members of the congregation.
“This is a place of the Lord, no doubt,” he said. “There’s unity, there’s love, you name it. Everything God’s about.”
Eddie Torres, who has attended for a couple of years, said he felt the small size of the church allowed it to put more emphasis on the feeling of the service.
“There’s a lot of love and respect for the pastor and his family,” he said. “They go beyond the call of duty, and their door is always open.”
Services at Beulah Land Church of God in Christ begin at 11 a.m.