We meet in the upstairs room of a school for kids with special needs. For Orthodox Romanians, it can be difficult for them to view this room as a "church," because all of the Orthodox churches are their own buildings and "look" like a church - with beautifully decorated icons and ornate tapestries all throughout. The picture above is an example of a church in Ghimbav, the town next to ours. Rightfully these churches are built with significant and historical meaning in every detail, all created in an attempt to acknowledge the holiness of God. We are meant to recognize our insignificance in comparison to His mighty significance when we visit and attend beautiful churches like these Orthodox ones, much like the requirements for building the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. It is right and good to create something in reverence of our Lord. At the same time, it is right and good to recognize that this is no longer a requirement, since the church universal is made of the Body of Christ: its members where the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. Neither is wrong when kept in balance. Understandably, if Romanians are used to "church" being like the one pictured above, it can feel like "not church" to join a small group in an upstairs school building. Similarly, I think a lot of Americans find it hard to "feel" like a house church is really church. Even while in the school building, our church is praying for the Lord's guidance in how to make it feel more traditional for visiting Romanians because focusing on the beauty and reverence of the holiness of God is a good thing. So if there is way to help facilitate worship for the Lord in that way, then we want to do that.
If you visited our church, it would probably seem fairly normal to you - albeit the entire service is in Romanian! We sing songs in Romanian that would probably be familiar to most modern church-goers in the States. Watch the two videos below to hear "How Great is our God" and the "Doxology" in Romanian!
We pray together, have a time of confession with an assurance of pardon, occasionally have updates on ministerial events and outcomes, listen to a sermon, and take part in Communion every first Sunday of the month. Those things would seem familiar. What has been new to us, though, is experiencing some of the benefits of a small church congregation. Our home church in the States has a membership of about 400 people, which is similar to Derek's upbringing. As a high schooler, my faith grew a lot in my mega-Baptist-church with a sanctuary that sat about 4,000. (I'm pretty sure those numbers are correct, but if anyone know, please let me know if I'm wrong!) So even when we first started attending Ivy Creek Presbyterian 9 years ago as an engaged couple and the membership was less than 200 at that time, it was still much bigger than our current church membership of about 50 people. So while there are certainly pros and cons with each type of church (praise God for his love of diversity!), here are currently my two favorite reasons I love our current church in Codlea:
- It is the COOLEST THING to hear God being worshiped and prayed to in up to four different languages: Romanian, English, Portugese, and German. It's so neat experiencing the reversal and restoration of the Tower of Babel. I rarely understand everything being said in Romanian and never understand prayers in Portugese and German, but there is something truly awesome about feeling a heart-connection with someone else praising your God in another language! Oftentimes we'll have different people stand up and read different Bible verses that coincide with the preaching. Each person reads in his own language, and that is so cool!
- One of my favorite parts of being in a small, intimate congregation is that we spend time praying for each other altogether. In large churches, this has never been possible except for in Bible Study settings. But here, we actually get to share requests with one another and pray together during the church service. After people share their requests as they feel led, we just spend time in prayer. We don't delegate who will pray for whom, but everyone takes turns praying as the Lord leads. And once again, everyone prays in his/her own language. So sometimes I know that someone is praying for us/me because I know my own name (obviously), but I don't even know exactly what is being said about me to God. But we get to share each other's burdens as a whole church community, and I love that. The picture below says "Community Prayers" and signals to us during the service that it's the time to pray with and for one another.
So there you go -- a small glimpse into our church here in Codlea. Please be in prayer for our church. It has always been the intention of the missionaries and elders to have Romanian leadership, but because of various extenuating circumstances, the interim pastor is currently American. But we are always praying for the Lord to provide a Romanian pastor. And of course, we are always praying that the Lord would use this congregation to be a light to others in Codlea and Brasov through their service to His people.