The minute I walked into the sanctuary, I knew something was different. The presence of the Holy Spirit was there, warm and embracing. The expression on the faces of people I did not know was that of joy and expectation. Everyone was focused in worship and I was immediately pulled into worship with them. I had no idea that church was to become my church, those people my church family; I was simply visiting a new house of worship in our area.
I continued to visit from time to time, and always, it was the same. People were welcoming and friendly, but never grasping. The music was worshipful; the pastor’s messages inspired. The services had a great deal of spontaneity and I especially loved the open altar for prayer. Sometimes the pastor would open the altar at the beginning of service, sometimes at midpoint, and often, at the close. I watched families go to the altar together, parents gathering their children from youth groups along the way down the aisle. I was mesmerized by a way of worship I had never experienced – and loving it.
One morning I was a little late and when I went through the sanctuary doors of First Assembly Memphis, the open altar for prayer was already in progress. I walked straight from the back of the church to the front and bowed in worship with these people I did not know but admired tremendously. I loved how they worshiped, how open they were with their need for God and to be prayed over. I could hardly wait to get there each Sunday morning to be engulfed by this reverence and desiring of God.
For a year, I attended two church services every Sunday morning with no intention of moving my church membership. But I realized I was getting at First Assembly the very thing I had been praying about for quite a while: a greater knowledge of the third part of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit. I was finding that at First Assembly, and I was rushing there each Sunday morning to receive it – and receive Him. The experience of growing close to the Holy Spirit was tender and deep; I wept every Sunday for a year from His loving embrace. It was as if I had found my way home after long years of wandering.
I was hungry for all I could get spiritually, and knew the best way to obtain it was to become totally involved through church membership. It was one of the best decisions of my life. These Holy Spirit-filled people immediately opened up their circle to me and made me family.
It has been a little over three years since I became a part of the First Assembly Memphis family, and I have been prayed over and supported through one family crisis after another. I dare say I have never in my entire life had as many fervent and ongoing prayers said over me and my family as in the short time I have been at First Assembly. I cannot imagine how I would have made it through these past three years, the toughest years of my life, without them. They have loved me and taught me and nurtured me. They have prayed for me and with me time after time after time. They have walked me through “what to do next” when my husband died and took care of my every need during those days. They have extended their reach to my very ill daughter and failing-in-health mother.
What I experienced that first Sunday morning is what the entire church is about: living joyfully and confidently in the Spirit of the Lord. I am so grateful the Holy Spirit heard and answered my prayer. I am so grateful for His presence in a sanctuary, a presence that wooed me to a closer walk with Him.