Sunday at All Saints

February 5, 2012

An Indian woman enters the church.
This cross stands over the gate that leads to the church.

When you travel, things don’t always work out as you had planned.

I’m writing this note from my hotel room in India at the very moment when I had planned to be finishing my sermon at the pastor’s conference. But our plans were waylaid when we discovered that this is a Muslim holiday of some sort, and they have planned a huge rally in the center of town, with free food for all who come. 

As we were driving through the city, we saw lots of soldiers in the area to provide security for the rally. In this part of the world, the authorities pay special attention whenever thousands of people congregate in a public place. One of the local officers told Benny that one lane of the main street would be closed completely but depending on the crowd, both lanes might be closed. At the very least, traffic in the area would slow to a crawl at the very time we were coming back from the conference. That wouldn’t matter except that our flight leaves this afternoon, and Benny felt that we shouldn’t take a chance on missing our flight. Taking us back to the hotel, he proceeded on to the pastors conference. We said goodbye to our dear friend with much gratitude for hosting our visit to India these last two weeks.

But that meant we had a few hours on our hands. I decided to take a stroll near the hotel and see what I could find. Less than two blocks away I saw an enormous spire piercing the air. The sign said it was All Saints Cathedral, a part of the Church of North India. I ventured onto the church grounds, wondering what I would find. As I got closer, I heard the strains of a familiar gospel song being sung in English:

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

When I heard that, I knew I was in friendly territory. The only difference I noted was that the Indians sing it much slower than we do in the States, almost like a hymn instead of a gospel song. When I peeked inside, the church was full, with perhaps 300 in attendance. Moved by the music, I started singing along and soon felt right at home. 

I went outside and signed the guest book, reflecting that I was might be the first visitor they’ve ever had from Tupelo, Mississippi. Then a genial man came up, greeted me, and we talked for a moment. He welcomed me to the church and told me that this was the English service, to be followed by a service in Hindi. Shaking his head, he said that attendance had dropped since Christmas. I laughed and said I had been a pastor for 26 years and found the same thing true in every church I pastored. We agreed that human nature is the same the world over. Big crowds for Christmas, a decrease, and then big crowds for Easter. 

It’s a bright, sunny day in India, and the people seemed genuinely glad to come to worship. As I left the service, I saw masses of people going forward for Holy Communion as the congregation sang,

Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the flock,
Wondrous grace that brought me to the flock!

On a day that has not gone according to plan, it’s good to be reminded that God is completely in control. He has his people everywhere, including in a cathedral in India on a beautiful Sunday morning. 

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