52 Churches 52 Weeks

Worship Exploration Journey

Week 34 – Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church – Baptist

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Today’s church, Pilgrim Rest, located in downtown Phoenix on Jefferson near the Diamondbacks field was a very unique and emotional experience. Pilgrim Rest is a gleaming, modern palace that beckons the faithful who love the Lord Jesus. It is a predominately Black Baptist church with probably 2000 people in attendance this morning. The church was so packed that it reminded me of Christmas Mass. The service was two and half hours and was incredibly engaging.

Similar to the Baptist church I visited in Ahwatukee, there was a lot of focus on music; and man was it loud. Just a little overwhelming but at the same time a lot of fun and very entertaining. A ton of passion and energy. My favorite part was when the young adult choir harmonized. Simply beautiful.

This was seriously the best dressed congregation in town. The ushers wore white gloves. The men and women – suits with a splash of color here and there. My pew mate had six-inch long purple nails and pink hair with glitter. I love glitter! I actually felt a little sloppy in my “Mr. Rogers” sweater and wished I would have worn a suit jacket instead. Next time.

What I loved was that if you felt moved to stand you could stand. If you felt moved to put your arms up in prayer, so be it. If you wanted to sit, be my guest. If you wanted to dance; dance. There didn’t seem to be any expectations on what was acceptable or not. The service was about people coming together to hear about Jesus, show their gratitude and celebrate in a passionate, emotional, happy way. The ushers delivered fans to those overcome with heat and tissue boxes to those overcome by tears. I have an image of men being too cool to be expressive in public. It’s probably my husbands fault! But I have to say that in this church the very coolest looking men were not too cool to participate, to express their love for God, to pray out loud, to sing, to dance, to be present. So refreshing.

Pilgrim Rest had a guest Pastor today who asked the question, “What do we do when things go from bad to worse?” We have all been there. We might be there now. We might have just come out on the other side. We must remind ourselves that even when we have concluded that things could not get any worse than this – there is always more and in that knowledge we can find gratitude. We wake up one day and we are living Little House on the Prairie and by the end of the day our lives have become Nightmare on Elm Street. You know it! Things often get worse before they get better. Amen. Does it feel like God is ignoring you? Have we prayed, fasted, lived right? Are we being punished for our sins? Don’t hide what you’ve been through. God is using you as a testimony to others. This is how God builds faith.

The Pastor told the story of the ill woman in Mark who went to receive healing from Jesus and touched the hem of his robe and was healed. She had faith and crawled through the gathering just to touch his hem. Jesus is our friend and we can bring everything we have to him. Jesus was on his way to heal a man’s daughter when this occurred. On their way to Jairus’ home a messenger came to tell Jesus that she has died. Jarius, having seen the healing of the woman pushed forward because Jesus had built his faith. The Pastor then told us – about five times, with passion, and in an interesting way that seemed to cause a little ripple throughout the church, “Be careful of reports from the House were Jesus is not.” Was it my imagination or was there a political message in there for these obviously devout Christians?

In looking back at the places of worship that I have attended over the past several months I really had to take a look at emotion today. In our relationships, places of employment and places of worship we are impacted by the emotional culture that we exist in. If we attend a sedate, calm, quiet church we mirror that environment. On the other hand, I found today, that when submerged in an energetic, passionate church requiring fans and tissue, that I came to mirror my environment. Pass the tissue and have an awesome day!

This church has live streaming video you can link in to. Check it out sometime!


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