If you've been to more than a few Presbyterian worship services in your lifetime, you'll find the service at Amherst Presbyterian to be pretty familiar. But if you haven't, you might be wondering what to expect. Hopefully we can answer a few of your questions.
Where should I go?
Amherst Presbyterian is located at 163 Second St., just a few blocks from the center of town. Without much of a parking lot, most of the congregation on Sunday morning either parks on the street or in the Food Lion parking lot just next door.
When should I get there?
Worship is at 11:00. The church comes to life around 10:30 when the choir begins to warm up. Occasionally we have classes or breakfasts that usually start around 9:30. The website or Facebook page should have up-to-date listings of when those things are happening.
What should I wear?
Be comfortable. We try not to stand too much on ceremony. Most folks will show up in something resembling semi-formal or business casual. But the door is open to you regardless of your attire.
What about my kids?
People of all ages are always welcome in our Sunday morning worship, especially children. Nothing adds to the worship of God like the sound of young voices. That being said, we know how hard it can be to manage a toddler and follow a sermon at the same time. Amherst Presbyterian has a weekly rotation of members who have volunteered for nursery duty, which takes place in one of our preschool classrooms so as to make use of all of the toys and games available. There is also a quiet room and crib available for your use. Any usher can help point you in the right direction.
What about my accessibility needs?
Amherst Presbyterian Church is committed to creating worship that is welcoming to all ages and all stations of life. On Sunday morning, you will find designated handicap parking places immediately in front of the side entrance to the church, which is equipped with a ramp for wheelchair access. You will find that the sanctuary is also equipped with an Assistive Listening System for anyone who needs a bit of help hearing the words of the service. And you will also find members of the church eager to help welcome you in whatever way they possibly can.
What should I expect in worship?
When you arrive, an usher will hand you that Sunday's bulletin for worship. It will have the order in which the service will proceed: a mix of prayers, hymns, and times for listening to scripture and listening to the pastor. The congregation will join in for some of the prayers (in bold) and stay quiet for others. Don't worry if it seems hard to follow along. There's no shame in just sitting and observing. The bulletin will also reference hymn numbers, which correspond to one of the hymnals in the seat back in front of your pew. Again, if you don't feel like following along, that's fine. One of the beautiful things about worship is that God shows up regardless of how well we prepare and how well we perform.
Presbyterians believe that the worship of God should center around the reading and interpretation of Scripture, which means that one of the central acts of our service will be listening to one or more passages from the Bible and then to a sermon based on that passage. But just because worship centers on the Bible doesn't mean that we believe every word to be historically and/or literally true. There's a pretty big gap between the context in which those words were originally spoken and written and our context. But we believe that God is in that gap, helping us build bridges between those words, the living Word of God, and our everyday lives.
What else do Presbyterians believe?
Well, that's a short question with a long answer.
Here's a short (and therefore incomplete) take. We believe in God. We believe that God created all things and loves all things, including you and me. We believe that God wants to be in relationship with all things, including you and me. We also believe that you and me (well, everybody), when left to our own devices, tend to be selfish, violent, greedy, and all-around unloving people, but that God loves us anyway. In fact we believe that God's son Jesus Christ came into the world as a sign of God's unrelenting faithfulness and unsurpassed love. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, God's continuing work in the world in and through each of us, a sign that God is not yet done with creation.
We believe in God and we believe that God loves us just as we are, but we also believe that God sends us into the world to work for peace, mercy, and reconciliation. We believe that we are called to feed the hungry, comfort the sick, welcome the outcast, and resist the power and powers of injustice. The Old Testament prophet Amos, living in a time of extreme social and economic inequality, dreamt of a day when justice would roll down like water. We share the same dream. We believe it to be God's dream. And while we wait for the promise of God's dream made into reality, we also go into the world working to make it happen.
Lots of other folks have given longer answers to that question. If you're really curious, start here.
Why are all these people shaking my hand?
We're a pretty small church. It means that we can't put together some of the elaborate programming that other churches can. But on the other hand, it also means that we know each other, well. We love each other and we care about each other and we put a lot of value on community. So, a fair warning: come on Sunday morning, and people will shake your hand. They will introduce themselves. They will make chitchat. We don't have much room for anonymity – partially because we can't help ourselves, and partially because we believe in the divine gift of being known.
I hope you will come and walk with us.