This one was always going to be a tough one for me simply because my church home in Appleton, WI seemed almost perfect. I had met my best friend there, was baptized there, was in the choir off and on for 10 years, taught Sunday School, led my Homeless Shelter ministry… and so many more wonderful opportunities had happened at Appleton Alliance. So where do you start as the new kid on the block? I will take you through our journey and how we hope we have found the church home we have been looking for.
First, we did search online for non-denominational churches, as that was where we had come from. You have to start with what you know first, then move you way up to see if there is something new or different you would like to try. The only Alliance Church we had found we had no interest in, so from there we had thought about attending a Church our friends attend in Lakeland. The only issue I knew we were going to have is that it was about 30 minutes or more up i4, and I just didn’t see myself driving it all the time, seemed to take awhile the time we drove past it on the way to Sarasota. If we committed to it, and it was too far, I would make excuses not to get to choir or anything else outside of Sunday service- I didn’t want it to start that way.
Second, we prayed about it. My first church here wound up being the “Mary, Queen of the Universe” because my Mom and Bob wanted to try it out on their stay here. I am no longer Catholic, so even though the Church was beautiful, it wasn’t for me. I am a VERY contemporary gal, and I enjoy my worship time with some lively music, plus I truly feel my soul lift up and off the floor when I hear a moving song. For me, singing is my outlet of speaking to God, so it was very important I find that place I can do that again. Yes, I sing in my car and in the shower, but nothing like with a choir or a sanctuary filled with believers… that is just something special that I hope everyone gets to feel in their lives on this Earth.
Third, ask at your old church. When I was home this past October, I couldn’t stop smiling while walking the old halls of my Church. At that point I almost wanted to move back and fall into the routine with Choir that I was craving by this point of the move. I saw my Pastor and asked him to recommend a Church for myself in Orlando, since the search was going cold. He suggested “First Baptist of Orlando” which I had heard of, but honestly never gave it any attention because I am not a Baptist. He said they had great programs, huge church, that I should look into it.
More excuses went by, until finally Craig and I tried it out this past Sunday. First, we timed the drive, as it ran us about 20 minutes down the other direction of I4- and it didn’t seem to long since it was a Sunday morning. It was just past the Universal Studios area, so we had an “idea” of where it was located, on top of having our handy GPS to guide us the rest of the way. We decided to try out the 10:45 service, as the 9:00 was listed more as a traditional one. Again, I wanted to feel the beat and get my praise on- the long and traditional hymns weren’t going to do it. We checked in as “new” at the informational desk, then found a seat around the front of the church on the main floor. Yes, the church is so huge it has a large balcony, and televises it’s services for those who cannot make it to church. As we sat there, I started to feel a growing pain in my stomach. I really missed Appleton Alliance, and for the first time in a long time, I was VERY, VERY homesick. There was no familiar smiling face to greet me, no choir member to bump into for a hug, and the feeling of “alone” was starting to creep in. I squeezed Craig’s hand and just prayed this was the right one, as we were both tired and broken from not having a Church home for the past 7 months. Yes, people can be and feel broken when they don’t have that fellowship of Christians every week, hearing God’s word and learning from it… I had missed so much of it. We enjoyed the service, as it was their Missions Sunday, which means they celebrate all the Missions they do around the World in helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and getting out God’s word to those who have never heard it. It was inspiring, and it almost felt like a “Welcome Petermanns” service, even though it had nothing to do with us. Or so we thought. After Service we were encouraged to go to Faith Hall and see where God could use us in any of the many outreach programs they have. We signed up for helping the homeless and a couple of other really neat programs. I will follow up on those once they have happened.
Fourth, and finally, talk to the friends you make here. Ask where they go to church, and if you are brave and they say they don’t, invite them to search with you or attend one YOU have been thinking about yourself. Most information these days does come from the Internet, so ask your friends and family who live in your new city and state about where they attend- search groups that have your same faith in mind to see how they can help you. Ultimately, it is your choice and your WILL in the end to get there and start that new journey, and believe me, it IS a scary one. But here’s the thing, I am SUPER excited to meet new people at this Church and get connected with those who can help me on my spiritual walk. I have fallen down so many times that I am surprised I have found God’s hand to help me back up again, but we are all sinners and knowing you have that relationship with him is half the battle.
So in conclusion, I loved the Pastor, the size of the Church is a bit big, but I am going to work with it, and I love all the ministries they have to be a part of. I love my Disney, but Christ leads my life, not Mickey, and I don’t ever want that impression to be given that Disney is more important. It is my hobby, it is my happy place, but my treasures lie in Heaven. We will be taking the girls this week to see what they think and going forward from there, my hope is that this IS the one, but only time will tell if it is truly where the Petermanns are meant to be. God bless your day!