By Rajmund Dabrowski

Settling in a new city, we were fortunate to discover that church shopping would not be too difficult. Several congregations beckoned with their own expressions of being exemplary, God-fearing, and showcasing their peculiarities in being a congregation of “truly happy people.” One even considered enticing us with the seemingly persuasive argument of being the “Adventist elite of the area.”

The one church we decided to settle at offered nothing of the kind. No one knew we were coming. No one welcomed us at the door, no greeter recognized a couple of strangers coming in and later walking out. The worship was consider- ably challenging and far from the “high church” style we grew up in and enjoyed over decades of church membership.

However, we kept coming back. At first we sat quietly, but slowly introduced ourselves to those around us. We used to worship in large congregations, many of whom had mini congregations within them. This one was not small, at first glance. We were “strangers in a strange land,” speaking with foreign accents, presenting a challenge to those who were already in the “club.”

We knew that being authentic, speaking freely and without apprehension, sharing in the same faith and hope, we would contribute to making diversity a bit more relevant and expressive of what Christianity required us to be—a culture of brothers and sisters with infectious joy and free hugs!

A secular media story about an Adventist church in Jamaica demonstrates my belief that all Adventist congregations can be much more than we make them out to be.

As a journalist, Piotr Krasko knows a good story when he sees one. His honeymoon in Jamaica provided an encounter with our church and he shared his story in his TV newscast. His description betrays an obvious appreciation of Catholic nomenclature. However, the story paints a vignette of a faith community we might be familiar with, and perhaps a welcome presence in today’s not so positive media coverage!

“One of the most memorable experiences for me in Jamaica was participating in a mass [sic.] in an Adventist church,” he recalls.

“I told the hotel driver to pick me up in an hour, when the worship would end, and he responded that he wouldn’t know when the mass would end. It could last one, two or even five hours . . .

“The minister’s homily lasted 50 minutes, three minutes of which dealt with the moral side of things. The 47 remain- ing minutes were for greeting the believers. The pastor was happy that Mrs. Watkinson had already returned after visit- ing relatives in Los Angeles. Mr. Watson has a pair of brand new dentures and he looks great in them, and Mrs. Simpson bought herself a new hat which suits her well. The identified people would then stand up, bow and be applauded by the congregants. The visiting tourists were greeted with joy.

“One got the impression that everyone here belonged to one big family. No one had a sad look on their face when they greeted one another. . . . They greeted each other warmly and joyfully.

“There I saw a group of a truly happy people, full of fire and fantasy. . . . Regrettably, I was with them only for an hour and a half because the driver was waiting for me.

“The mass continued for another three hours,” Krasko concluded.

Was this truly a report about one of our churches? I wondered. Could such a reality, observed by a stranger who just wandered in, be replicated in any church congregation, anywhere?

But if that were to be so, we wouldn’t be surprised by such a media report.

Actually, each one of us is a member of what can become the happiest congregation around.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of Mountain Views.