In a bygone age, Christians would refer to Sunday as “the market day for the soul.” The day of the week where the soul is nourished on Christ and strengthened to carry out weekly duties in the joy of the Lord.
Like such Christians, we at Calgary Free Presbyterian Church love Sundays. In fact, at least 50% of our congregation drive 30 minutes or more from all over the city and the bedroom communities to join us every Sunday at our location in Pineridge, to have their hearts searched and their souls fed.
What to expect when you arrive
Let’s say for example you join us this Sunday for our 11am service. Here’s what you may notice…
The Place: The first thing you may notice is that we meet in a modest building that is somewhat traditional. It is evenly lit with lights and windows, rather than dark with stage lights. We’re thankful to God for what He has provided and how it allows us to meet together to rejoice in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The People: The second thing you may notice is that many nationalities are represented, and people from all walks of life. Some are widows being brought to church by other members of the congregation. Some are coming on their own because they’re the only Christian in their family. Some are young couples just starting out in life together. Some are families with small children, and others are families with older children. There are no other meetings conducted during the worship, so adults and children are together according to the biblical model. What you don’t see however, are the pasts that have been broken by sin, the weight of present burdens, or the hidden worries about the future. Nor do you see the stories of God’s deliverance, or the triumphs of those who have proven the sufficiency of God’s grace. These hidden things you’ll only begin to see as you get to know each person.
The Praise: The third thing you may notice is that the praise is not led by a band, but is congregational in nature. And since we’re exhorted to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in our singing (Colossians 3:16), we stick to psalms and hymns that focus on scriptural themes and sound doctrine. You will discover that our worship is simple, joyful, and reverent. The aim is to cultivate a mind-driven worship environment, rather than an emotion-driven environment, since that’s the emphasis in Scripture. Many confuse a carnal emotional response with a spiritual experience, which is easy to do since we’re a fallen people. You will also observe that we use hymnals rather than screens since it helps many to follow the music, and is easier for children to join in since their height can make seeing a screen difficult.
The Prayer: The fourth thing you may notice is the main prayer, where the pastor takes time to lead the congregation in gratitude to God, confession of sins, and requests for important individual and family needs as represented by the congregation and beyond.
The Preaching: The fifth thing you may notice is the type of preaching. Since the Scripture is our sole authority for faith and practice, and is the divinely appointed means to change hearts and lives, it is Scripture which gets emphasis over personal stories and cultural events. Normally our pastor is going through a book of the Bible in an expository fashion, mining out the meaning within its context, drawing out relevant doctrinal issues, and making clear application that drives us from sin and towards Christ. God’s Word has a habit of not making us feel too great about ourselves, but points us to a great Saviour in whom sinners can rest.
Generally our worship services last 90 minutes or so. However, we tend to linger for quite a while afterwards, so don’t be surprised if you get caught in conversation after the meeting is over.
Evaluating your experience
It can be very difficult to evaluate a church with just one visit. For that reason, if you are serious about finding a new spiritual home, we would encourage you to visit us every Sunday for one month to get a better understanding of what we’re about.
Our pastor greets everyone at the door at the end of each service. This is a perfect opportunity to ask questions, or to make an appointment with him to address concerns or to help you with spiritual needs.
Other concerns you may have
Do I have to be a Christian?
While you will find that most who attend are Christians, we welcome all. Some of those who attend now were not Christians when they visited for the first time. If you are presently just curious about Christianity, we understand what it’s like to visit a Christian place of worship and not actually be a Christian yourself. You don’t have to be worried. And if your coming with questions, we welcome them.
Do I have to participate by introducing myself or anything?
No, it’s not that kind of meeting. Our meetings are quite traditional, so you’re free to come and observe the service if you’d like. Someone may speak to you either before or after the service just to be friendly.
What should I wear?
While many of our regulars dress smartly, there is no fixed dress code. Obviously at times Calgary weather dictates what people wear to a degree, so don’t be worried. You will find a warm welcome regardless of what you’re wearing. Come as you are.
Do I have to give money?
Not at all. Just before our third corporate singing piece, there is an opportunity for those who consider Calgary FPC their spiritual home, and are united with us in vision and spirit, to give as the Lord has prospered them. However, you do not have to participate and there is no expectation that you should contribute.
Is there anything for my children?
Often when that is asked the expectation is that there may be a separate service for the children. As mentioned already, we take a different approach and we do so very deliberately. We encourage parents to keep their children with them in worship, since we believe corporate worship is an expression of God’s family, and what is a family if it isolates the children? In fact, scripture makes a case for keeping children in corporate worship (consider Deut. 31:12-13; Josh. 8:34-35; and Joel 2:15-16). Additionally, in Ephesians 6:1-3 Paul assumes children would be present in the church and addresses them directly.
Of course kids can make a little noise at times, and we have a room where the message is relayed when a child may be particularly unsettled, but we do not encourage the unbiblical (but sadly common) practice of removing children from corporate worship. During the formative years it is critical that children see their parents worship God, and we prefer to buck the trend and encourage what is truly best for families. If your children are not used to sitting in church it may take some time for them to settle, but with patience, instruction, and prayer, they may surprise you.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch.