John and I take a lot of day trips and a local church never fails to grab my attention. I can’t recall the last time we ventured out when we (okay, I) did not detour quickly to admire a local church. I often let my camera share the stories that are reminiscent of my life experiences.
Beauty Inside and Out
Early in life, I learned that church is about the people; God’s eternal plan before a building was ever constructed. It wasn’t until my life changed its pace that I became moved by the actual structure of a church. I’m thankful for the understanding of both and the adventures that have shown me their beauty.
Stop Everything and Be Filled
If there is anything that alerts me before the sight of a local church it’s church bells. No matter the weather, the car windows come down and if traffic isn’t too wild the car is stopping. Thankfully, John has become accustomed to the sudden demands of pulling off the road. An early morning decision to drive to Highlands, North Carolina to see the snowfall was rewarded by the sound of church bells. The snow became more than we expected (that’s another story for another day!) but I was mesmerized by the bells. The song rang in my head as the words of the hymn flowed through my mind. Pull the car over, get the camera, forget about the temperature and let this sweet sound fill your ears and feed your soul in whatever way it needs feeding.
No Better Place To Be Than A Local Church
Churches have been a part of me my whole life. I grew up in the church and have entered more than I could possibly count. As a young child, I thought it was a place for grown-ups. A place to be quiet and sit still, at the same time I was intrigued. I would sit close to my dad while listening to my mom sing. Those sweet years didn’t last long. My teenage years arrived and the church became the place I knew I’d see my real friends. We sat together on Sunday mornings (often on the balcony), passed notes, and laughed a little too often. While it seemed we were misbehaving, I know now that we were just being kids and we were doing no harm. We were at church and there was no better place for us. We were safe, loved and I believe God smiled.
My Local Church
As a family, we could be found at our church throughout the week. Sunday School and worship on Sunday morning, choir practice in the afternoon, and prayer meeting in the evening. We reconvened on Wednesday for family dinner, Bible study (GA’s, Bible Drills, Training Union). I can still smell the soft rolls that were cooked on Wednesday night as we waited in line with our tickets. We knew just about everyone, and everyone loved seeing each other. We sat at long open tables and never worried about fitting in or finding a seat. There was always room for one more.
It Left A Mark On Me
My home church also had an additional chapel; the original sanctuary. It still stands today and when I get to drive by it, I laugh a little at how I used to be fearful of going in. It was quiet, dark, and rarely used because of expansions and growth. The new spaces always took first place while the ones with history became leftovers. Today I know that it was probably the most reverent, peaceful place in all of Smyrna. The pews were solid wood and not comfortable. They creaked when you sat down…right in tune with the hardwood floors. I know it is a holy place. It left a mark on me.
“Come in and see the ONE who changed my life!”Pastor Mike Woods, First Baptist Powder Springs, GA
A Local Church Is Not A Building
While I love to photograph and tour churches because of their beauty and architecture, I’m reminded that they are man-made. The actual church is not a building. The church is God’s plan for His people; the church is God’s people. Regardless of denomination or location, we are God’s trophies, recipients of His grace. The breathtaking buildings are cherries on top and are meant to be loved, respected, and treasured.
“No one is a second-class citizen in the church. We all sit at the table with Christ.“Levi Skipper, Pastor
Tell Your Story
The world may be screaming that the church is dying but I disagree. We are the church; one body. The buildings are a place to find solace, rest, forgiveness, and peace. But we are all one in Jesus and He is still winning. Slowing down to photograph churches brings me joy and allows me a small chance to honor the families who have walked through each beautiful door. Next time you pass a local church, even if you can’t stop, be reminded that the people of the church are the best instruments for bringing others to God’s family. And we all (you and me) have a story to tell! Comment, share, and tell your story every chance you get.