By Reba Phelps
Years ago I met the most precious elderly man who was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Winnfield. He never missed church when the doors were open. That is, unless he was visiting the Catholic Church or the First Baptist Church of Winnfield. He was a firm believer in going to church and he often joked that he wanted to cover all of his bases just in case the Methodist route was not the quickest route to the Pearly Gates. He was also quoted as saying, “if Jesus were to come back he should be able to find me at one of these fine churches.”
I never thought in a million years that I’d find myself becoming a Church Gypsy as well. Being a preacher’s kid I went to my dad’s church by default. My father was born a Catholic who later became a Non-Denominational Preacher. Marrying a preacher’s kid I went to my father-in-law’s church and became Baptist by default. Once we moved to Natchitoches we joined the First Baptist Church and always felt at home with the family atmosphere, amazing choir music and a genuine Pastor. There was never a time I attended church and failed to find the feelings you’re supposed to get at church.
This all changed for me when I divorced a preacher’s kid.
For the first time in my life I had a decision to make that seemed to be the hardest decision of my life. Where do I belong now that I’m Baptist by default and subsequently divorced a Baptist? It seems as though during a divorce one may lose custody of certain things. The words were unsaid but I felt I didn’t have exclusive rights to the Baptist Church since he was there first, so to say.
With this in mind I went on a one woman (plus child) mission to find my church home.
One of my first visits were to Grace Baptist Church in Cloutierville with some of my best friends. The church is small in size but huge in heart. They welcomed me like I was a long lost friend they’d known forever. They ask about me when they don’t see me and invite me to every family event their church has to offer. The Pastor loves his congregation and loves to joke with them from the pulpit.
Now, travel down Cane River to the St. Augustine Catholic Church. This is one of my favorite places in the Parish to visit. The picturesque and historic location just feels spiritual as soon as you arrive. The thing that makes this church special is the many families who attend. Their families have attended for generations. They too welcome you with open arms and well wishes.This is where many of my work friends attend so it’s a divine experience when we all gather to worship and hear the homily brought by Father Charlie. If you’ve met Father Charlie then you understand why it’s so easy to attend.
Let’s not forget my original home church. River of Life Church in Goldonna. This is where I may or may not have carved my initials in a church pew or two. My father’s church is where I was a faithful member from childhood until I married in 1995. Visiting his church is always like a homecoming service. I feel so warm when I visit and I covet the memories of my mother and father worshiping together before her passing. She was wheelchair bound and always sat on the front row of the church. The recollections of our family history in this church are immeasurable but it’s a small hike to get out there.
Staying true to my Non-Denominational roots I decided to visit Freedom Life Church. The Praise and Worship music is extraordinary. Here again, the people make the church. They are so friendly and they genuinely want you there and want you to come back. They have children’s activities for the younger ones and other programs and Bible Studies for those who want to delve deeper. The Pastor is a very animated and an interesting person who will have you on the edge of your seat during his sermon.
With all of these wonderful churches right here in our own town I can honestly say that I’ve been extremely blessed visiting every one of them.
They say that while going through a divorce you should keep the children as grounded as possible and keep them in a routine. I may have dropped the ball when it comes to Sunday stability. Although we’ve been to church nearly every Sunday it hasn’t been the same location. I joke that one of the benefits of being a Church Gypsy is that you can wear the same thing every Sunday and no one will ever know.
There are many downsides as well. No one will know if you have a sick family member or if you’re going through a hard time and need extra prayer. You won’t know if someone you met at church needs support or prayer. You probably won’t know this because you’re only there once a month. If you miss church on Sunday no one will call and ask where you were and that’s because you’re not a regular face. One of the largest downsides, if you’re a drifter, is that you’re never able to participate and use your gifts that God blessed you with.
There is a lot to be said about being a part of church family and knowing where you belong every Sunday without fail but then again, I need to visit the First United Methodist Church.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with thee.