#8 Patterson Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church

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This Sabbath, I walked up the familiar steps of the Patterson Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church located at 3901 Patterson Avenue in the near west end of Richmond. I was no stranger to this church having attended it many Saturdays with my ex, and still faithful friend Danny about 7 years ago. His grandmother is still a loyal Adventist. I was on the look out for her until I had learned from her neighbor that she went to a sister church for the traditional service. I was greatly disappointed. I knew she’d be thrilled to see me at church on Sabbath. She has a sincere love for the church and it’s loyal, faithful members. I think her devotion is admirable.

I had never realized the immense cultural differences within the congregation. I silently wondered whether such a diverse group had always been commonplace at Patterson Avenue? I was pleased to see their union under one roof while embracing a universal goal: To praise God.

As I walked through the church doors, several smiling faces welcomed me with a "Happy Sabbath" as they shook my hand and pointed me toward the area of worship.

It is a beautiful brick church. Fairly large inside and you can tell it’s very well cared for. The alter is colored in a deep saturated red with a well-defined area where their enthusiastic new Pastor Jack Calkins would give his light-hearted sermon.

Pastor Jack is a jovial looking fellow from Piscataway, New Jersey where he had pastored for 8 years. Pastor Jack recently joined Patterson Avenue where he serves as a solid replacement for the previous Pastor Robert Banks who has moved up in the church’s organizational ranks now overseeing different church communities on a regional level.

The new pastor and other members of the congregation led the service. They read from several different areas of the Bible and encouraged our participation as they asked us to follow along in our own Bibles. The service was joyful and Christ-centered. As always, they had all the children come up to the front to listen to a children’s story with an underlying Christian theme. I highly enjoy this part of the service. It’s a time to acknowledge the beauty that lies in the innocent nature of children as they ask the funniest questions proving their naturally curious and carefree nature. The adults in the congregation also get an opportunity to enjoy a less serious side of God where complex theological questions take a back seat to a simplistic view of a God that loves us individually and wholeheartedly. This simple God doesn’t shower his Love upon us because of deep understanding of convoluted scriptural study, or our ability to conduct an in-depth analysis of the struggles of self but plainly because "we’re special and our Father always Loves us"

Everyone seemed to be dressed fairly conservatively and there was certainly no coffee or cake...well until afterwards of course. Every Sabbath Patterson Avenue holds a brunch for the entire congregation so they can enjoy a meal together after the service and continue their communion. The brunch usually consists of healthy vegetarian fare.

As the service ended I started toward the door but not before thanking the new Pastor for the moving sermon. With a colossal smile Pastor Jack embraced me as he said, "so, did it all make sense to you?" I agreed that it did. He delivered a compliment regarding my own smile and we happily parted ways so he could visit with the woman behind me.

Before leaving, a pamphlet in the lobby caught my eye. It had a picture of a Bible on the front. The words "WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR CHURCH?" boldly dressed the cover. I was incredibly curious about who the pamphlet was geared towards so I brought it home with me. I was quickly brought back to a place I was many years before when I had attended the Adventists church; completely confused about how such a loving, embracing and warm community of people could produce such matter-of-fact literature regarding other church’s, in particular the Catholic church.

It takes every bit of "goodness" that I have (which I’m learning isn’t all that much) to not criticize the Adventist church for presenting such literature for anyone to just pick up (but then I’m gently reminded, this criticism makes me no less guilty!)

I wish I could just upload the entire pamphlet here so you could read it yourself but it basically gave a rundown of Bible prophecy in the Books of Daniel and Revelation and showed how those prophecies revealed much about the institution of Catholicism.  I was reassured by the literature that it wasn't about Catholic people, but instead, it shows the reader how the Bible prophecies depicted the system that makes up the church, with the infallible pope as its head.  Much of it pointed back to the history of the Catholic church and how the church changed many of God's holy laws to fit their own agenda.

My initial reaction is to judge the above accusations as ridiculously false. Like the Mormon’s ideas regarding their high seat in the Celestial Kingdom, I’m uncomfortable with any church’s claim that they know and understand biblical truths better than any other church.  However, I can’t claim to know the Truth regarding future events as it relates to Bible prophecy. But to put a piece of literature out that puts down another church in the body of Christ just doesn't resonate with me.  Do we not all have a common goal: To exemplify the love of Christ?

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