Now THAT's a Church Bulletin
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by Laramie Boyd
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Tucked away in the small desert community of Palm Desert, California, there sits a church
unlike many traditional houses of worship.
There, come each Sunday, it's often standing room only for the religious services performed
by the Pastor, 7 assistants, and 2 deacons, in addition to some famous guest speakers from time to time. Parking, of course, is at
a premium then, so early arrival is mandatory if you want to be lucky enough to find a good parking spot and a good front seat inside.
There must be something different, or special, going on inside the building, as one year a famous visitor dropped by for the service,
the President of the United States.
Now, I have never attended the church. But since my
wife attends every Sunday, I hear her ravings about it. And every Sunday when she comes home, she brings the 8 - 10 page church Bulletin,
and places it on the lamp table by my bed. And I read it, every Sunday. So what's going on there, at a not very ornate structure that's
partially hidden away by a grove of trees, tucked away on an inconspicuous side street far from any sign of a big city? Maybe it's
the quality of the sermons, or the personalities of the speakers, or the small-town atmosphere of friendliness of all those connected
with the Sunday services. Or maybe the church Bulletin advertiser plays a rather influential role also.
Inside the Bulletin you'll find the usual, and sometimes not so usual, announcements that tell you what's going on at and around the
church. Listed are prayer groups, fellowship meetings and faith-change gatherings, in case you want to join the church. Do you need
Al-anon advice, if you or someone you know has a drinking problem? If you're thinking about having an abortion, or are being sexually
abused by any church worker, from priest on down, counseling is available. All of these personal issues have on-site advisors and
counselors you can meet with.
Do you need child care while you work or attend church? Would
you like to donate food for the sick or poor, or do volunteer work at the church? There are senior transition groups, helping out
in the life changes that old age brings about. There are also instructions for signing up pre-schoolers (for potty-trained 2 1/2 -
5 year olds, no exceptions), and applications for regular school classes each September. You can even sign up to pay your tithes online,
to make your 10% donation, or sign up to leave a bit to the church in your will, if you feel the calling.
The advertising section of the bulletin looks like one you might find in a Los Angeles Times weekend delivery. Looking for a new or
used car, selling a house, need legal advice, want to buy some jewelry? Need medical care or dental work? How about a haircut? Going
out to dinner or taking an ocean cruise? Want musical instrument or voice lessons? Like to have your house painted, financial advice,
or a will drawn up? Maybe you're looking for assisted living centers, home security systems, foster- parent opportunities? How about
bookkeeping assistance, sleep centers, postal services, or house watchers for snowbirds when they leave the desert in the heat of
summer? You'll find all of this in the Bulletin. Just keep turning the pages and you'll come across the service.
I suppose the old time religious leaders who preached in the one-room, clapboard churches might wonder what all of these trappings
have to do with religion. But this is the age of technology, as you know, where instant communication is top priority, and advertising
pays, they say. Anyway, the coffers passed up and down the pews on Sunday are filled every week, all the attendees at the church seem
glad they came, and they'll be back next week. So maybe it's the best of all possible worlds here in this tiny little hideaway of
Christendom every Sunday morning. How does that old Biblical quotation go, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto
God the things that are God's?" I've been thinking it might be that I should drop by one of these Sundays. I'll bet the church wouldn't
burn down if I did.