Jerry may have done so before, but if he has, that recollection lies so far back in my memory cache, that I am not able to bring it forward: On October 8th, the first Sunday we were here in the Bay area, he preached three times.
10:00 am Pittsburg is a well–established church pastored by Don and Abbie O’Keefe, our long time friends. They urged us to go out to eat with them after the service which ended around noon, but we knew we didn’t have time. We dashed by our motor home to retrieve something Jerry had forgotten, grabbed a bite of food from our cupboards and headed up 18th St. which turns to Highway 4 and on into Oakley, where our friends, Peter and Carol Connell pastor.
2:00 pm Four years ago, the Connells left their home church in Fairfield, and began the establishing of a new church in Oakley. The building they use for their services is a very old beautiful school house that was moved from another location to the commanding spot where it now stands, highly visible as one enters the town of Oakley.
“You must eat something,” the Connells insisted at the end of their service, and though we were sure we didn’t have time, they persuaded us to go by their place for food. “It’s on the way to your next church.” Carol had prepared a pot of delectable green beans with potatoes, and Peter stopped off at a market, bought three rotisseried chickens which he expertly dissected with poultry shears at the island in their kitchen.
“I called the pastor at Brentwood and told them you may be a few minutes late,” Peter Connell said as he urged us to enjoy our food.
5:00 The church in Brentwood was established many years ago, but in recent times has suffered reverses and the attendance had dwindled. A few years ago, Joel Bryant and his wife assumed this pastorate, and under their leadership the church has flourished. The parking lot was full, and cars were lined up and down the street when we arrived about five minutes late. Ushers were waiting for us, whipped aside a large sign that said “Brother Buxton” and waved us into the designated spot near the front door. The ushers took charge of us, carrying in our books and setting them up on a display table, and directing us to our seats.
The church was packed and the service was vibrant. When later I commented to Joel Bryant about the sterling quality of the service, he said, “Sister Buxton, ninety percent of these people were not in the church a year ago, and they have come from all walks of life. Many of them were prostitutes, drug dealers and gang members. Believe me,” he continued, “they are thankful to be here.”
8:00 pm (or so, can’t really remember) Our last stop before bed was Mimi’s restaurant where the Bryants took us, and where the Connells met too, and where many from the Brentwood church also congregated. We filled a very large room and had another wonderful hour or more of laughing, eating and talking.
Before midnight: A late night drive took us back to our motor home at the fairgrounds in Antioch. Guess what. Neither Jerry nor I had trouble sleeping that night!
My significant observation from a Three-Church Sunday: God is near and dear to us no matter the size of the church, its length of duration, its location, or the make-up of its people. I often say that church is my favorite place to be, and that truly is the sentiment of my heart. Oh, I know God is everywhere, and we can worship Him and feel Him and commune with Him no matter where we are, but I find something dear and precious in gathering with His people, and corporately joining in the worship of our magnificent LORD.
“Oh, what a Saviour. Oh, hallelujah.
His heart was broken on Calvary.
He gave His life’s blood for even me.
His hands were nail-scarred, His side was riven
He gave His life’s blood for even me.
(I don’t believe those words are exactly right, but the story is right, and the sentiments are just so.)
2nd observation: Jerry is a pretty tough 74 year old to be able to preach three times on one Sunday!