Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Typical Sunday

As I was sitting in church this morning, I felt so thankful for our community here in Vienna where we now feel comfortable and welcomed. And I also realized that our experience on a Sunday morning is a bit different that what church used to look like for us in the States. So I thought I would share those things!

Here are some things about our church in Vienna that are a bit different that our U.S. church experience...

1. Relaxed pace. Sunday services are usually somewhere between 1.5 - 2 hours long and the length is determined by what needs to happen on a typical Sunday. If there is more going on, then the service goes longer. This has been a refreshing change for me. Because we're a small church and have only one service each Sunday, there's no need to worry about how long the service goes. It ends when it ends!

2. Group prayer. After a few songs at the beginning of the service, we always have an open group prayer time. It's an open-ended time where anyone can pray aloud. Since the room isn't very big, it's easy to hear everyone share. The purpose of this time is not designed to lift up specific prayer requests, but to praise God for who he is and what He's done for us.

3. Birthdays.  Every week, the people who have birthdays that week are announced and a special verse is chosen for the group to encourage and bless them.

4. Sharing time. At the end of the service, there is an open mic and anyone is welcome to come up and share. People often share prayer requests with everyone or updates on previous requests. This is also a time to share what God's been teaching someone or some specific thoughts based on that day's sermon.

5. Lots of music. I'm pretty sure we sing at least 6 songs each week, which is more than I remember singing in most churches in the States. They are scattered throughout the service time.

6. Simultaneous translation in two languages. We have two unique groups of people in our church who benefit from translation. Up at the front right side of the room, there is a group of hearing impaired church attenders and a translator who translated the entire service for them into sign language. It's so fun to watch! We also have several Romanian families in the church and there is usually a young person in the church (fluent in German and Romanian) who translated the service into a microphone. The Romanians who need translation listen to the Romanian version with headphones.

7. Social time. Austria is a very relational and social culture. They love spending time chatting and are laid back about how long this time lasts. After the service, most people stay for at least an hour or more to chat and socialize with other people in the church community.

8. Pot-luck lunches. Periodically (about once a quarter), we have a big lunch after church where everyone brings something to share. And of course, there is always tons of food and desserts to go around. This lasts at least 2, maybe 3 hours. In my experience, Austrian culture is a bit less schedule-oriented than the U.S., especially when it comes to social time, so these lunches can last for as long as people will stay!

I've really grown to love these aspects of our church experience here and as we become more and more comfortable with the language, I feel able to worship more and more on Sunday morning. This is a huge blessing and a feeling I had looked forward to for awhile. God truly blessed us when he led us to this church!