It was the coldest night of the winter. The roads were threatening to freeze over and more snow was forecast. "Who will come out on a night like this?" my husband muttered as he peered through the darkness looking for the church. "At least two people," he concluded as the church suddenly loomed up on the left, two cars parked by the door. "Looks like this structure is brand-new—the sign out front is still being finished."
As we stomped the snow from our shoes before entering we both wondered what kind of a congregation met in this brand-new church. Was it one divided in opinion about the architect's design, or the color of the carpet? Were the members so tired from raising funds that few would remember it was prayer meeting night? We didn't have to wonder for long.
"Mind the water!" a cheery voice boomed. We checked our steps before walking into a puddle. Whatever had happened? A smiling elder was busily wielding a wet-vac machine trying to stem the flood. "The builders said we needn't insulate the water pipes—they'd never freeze in a Washington winter," he explained good-naturedly. "And here we get the coldest spell in years! After we get this dried out, we'll have the job of crawling up there and insulating those pipes after all." He glanced helplessly at the ceiling to emphasize his feelings.
At this point the pastor arrived and after surveying the length of the aborted river showed us around the shining new sanctuary. It is going to be a little cold in here on a night like this, I thought to myself. But I need not have worried. "Come on around and see the youth room," the pastor invited. We were hardly prepared for what met our eyes. An enormous log fire blazed in a massive stone fireplace. The flames seemed to dominate the whole room, brightening every corner. Instinctively, I felt drawn to this room, anticipating a warm blessing.
Above the fireplace was a stone mantel with two large orange candles that matched the muted shades of the stonework. Between the candles stood eighteen copies of the New International Version of the Bible. Immediately, I realized that these were the most valuable assets in the room. Teen-agers, embarrassed to carry their own Bibles to Sabbath school, could use ones from the shelf. It turned out however, that I was the only person at prayer meeting who needed to borrow one! Each of the thirty or so people present had remembered to bring his or her own.
The talk that evening was based in the Bible. Members took turns reading a text each as we worked through an overview of the book of Hebrews and searched to find the pattern of exposition and exhortation that characterizes the sermon. At times we paused to compare versions in an effort to discover for ourselves what the apostle was trying to say. Excitement grew as we found Jesus was better than angels, better than Moses, a better sacrifice, a better high priest. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (chap. 2:3) we were reminded. One new Christian among us shared his conviction that the message—"To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (chap. 3:7, 8)—was especially for him. After a prayer season in small groups we were loath to leave. Eyes sparkled with the joy of opening the mind, and the certainty that the Word of God is understandable (From page 25) and meaningful today.
A good percentage of those present were young people; some were not Adventists; but all radiated vitality and warmth. What was it that made this group so refreshingly alive, so innocent of the popular doubts in the church? Could it be that the Bible is valued and cherished there? Or did the setting—the fire, the candles, the row of Bibles— promote an atmosphere that reminded us where our priorities should be? I left, pondering those questions, but one thing I knew for certain—worship that is centered around the reading of the Word leaves a warm feeling.