January 11th was my first Sunday in Tsugaru as I'd only arrived in Japan a couple of days earlier. I was looking forward to experiencing the worship services at Itayanagi, Harvest and Grace Chapels, although I admit that I did wonder how it was possible to manage such a busy day! If I were the one trying to organise it all, there would probably be a lot of stress and panic about who was doing what, and where, and when...
Not so for the Ghent family, who showed me how it's done with a smooth precision and an easygoing attitude. The key to it seems fairly straightforward: first, ensure that your focus is on sharing the love of Jesus with others, by offering your time and building relationships. Secondly, just keep putting one foot in front of the other! Perform each task as it comes, and enjoy the chance to have fellowship with others.
I couldn't help noticing (with pleasure) that food seemed to be a common element to all the services. Both Itayanagi and Harvest chapels had a meal after the service, and at Grace we ate before the service as well as going to a coffee shop after! I've heard it said that "Those who eat together, keep together", and I think I'm starting to see some truth in that. Time spent in fellowship is important for the members of every church; it's how we grow from acquaintances to friends, and then to family. Without the time to actually relate to each other, we can't make any real connections with the people around us - we become little more than a weekly club! There seems to be something about sharing a meal that works very well at pulling people together. Maybe it's the feeling of hospitality, or the unity of preparing together, or something else entirely... I'm not sure! Whatever it is, I'm glad I could join in with the Tsugaru chapels, and I hope I can encourage more of the same activity when I return home.
I won't deny that at the end of the day I felt absolutely exhausted - and I'd primarily been an observer! Nonetheless, it was a very rewarding day, and I look forward to next week.