In 1973 our family first stepped in to a church service of the Worldwide Church of God in the Senior Citizens Hall in Modesto, California. During the more than 25 years we were members of that church, almost every time there was even a minor change in the strict, fundamentalist doctrines, there also seemed to be a split-off group, each purporting to leave in order to “keep the faith once delivered.” Some of these splits were quite rancorous, at least at the higher levels.
But down at the level that counts, every time one of that original group of Modesto church members has a tragedy, all differences of philosophy and doctrine are forgotten and literally hundreds will show up to comfort the bereaved family. This was true in both cases when our two oldest children passed away within four years of each other in recent years.
This past Friday was no exception. The occasion was the passing of the wife and mother of a family of dear friends in nearby Jamestown, in the Gold Country of Northern California. The family now associates with one of those derivative churches which has only 30 or 40 members. The old Modesto Worldwide Church of God grapevine is still intact: hundreds showed up to hear a eulogy delivered in a pretty but rustic cemetery precipitously clinging to a scrabble-strewn hill outside of Jamestown. Present were people who were members of the numerous splinter groups along with people who were now un-churched or even agnostic; but, as always, the event turned into a feast of love directed not only at the grieving family but at each other as the knots in the old fishing net were refreshed with care that is beyond and superior to doctrines and philosophies.