Brief Delay

There’ll be no Churchspotting update today.  Instead, we beg your patience as we bring you the fruits of an in-depth interview with pastor Tommy Wilkes of Clover, SC’s First Methodist Church, which was first featured here on Churchspotting.

Intermission

Churchspotting is taking this Sunday off.  Thank you for reading, and enjoy what appears to be a truly beautiful Sunday here in Clover, SC.

Iglesia de Dios Casa de la Restauracion, Clover SC, Part II – Visited on 7/3/12

Clover, SC lay in the grip of a record breaking heatwave on the evening of July 3 when Churchspotting met with Noelia Quinones, the pastor of Iglesia de Dios Casa de la Restauracion.  The cool and dark of the church building’s interior was a welcome change from the baking humidity outside, which persisted even towards sunset that day.  Inside, Noelia and her husband Raphael took seats behind the desk in a room marked ‘Pastor’s Office’ to answer our questions about themselves and their church.

Noelia Quinones was born in Puerto Rico in 1957 to a family of five: mother, father, one sister and one brother.  She was the daughter of her father’s second marriage, and her brother and sister were step-siblings.  The whole household was Catholic, and Noelia was raised as a member of the Catholic Church.  Noelia attended high school in her teens against her father’s wishes, and went on to study teaching at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.

At eighteen Mrs. Quinones transferred to the King’s College in New York City, which she attended while living in nearby Newark, New Jersey.  It was in Newark that she met her husband, Raphael, and began to attend a local outpost of the Church of God, a Pentecostal denomination based in Cleveland, TN.  Churchspotting covered two other Church of God congregations previously.

Her transition from the Catholic Church to the Church of God was apparently as much for Raphael’s benefit as her own spiritual inclinations.  By his own admission Raphael smoked and gambled as a younger man, but during their time in Newark one of his friends claimed to have left those vices behind after starting attendance at a Church of God congregation.  They began attending themselves, and have remained Church of God members ever since.

After college Noelia worked as a Spanish teacher in New Jersey until her retirement in 1997.  She and Raphael moved back to Puerto Rico, where she spent a few quiet years as a real estate agent.  Raphael suffered several heart attacks during this time, which prompted them to move to Clover, SC as a place for Raphael to relax.

While living in Clover, Noelia became involved a Spanish language Church of God congregation in Gastonia, NC.  Though she began as a volunteer helping to maintain the church, the pastor there suggested that she should pursue ordination and a more official position in the Church of God.  Though at first reluctant, Noelia eventually began taking correspondence classes over the internet and subsequently passed the church’s ordination tests in Charlotte, NC to become an “exhorter minister” of the Church of God.

After receiving her ordination Noelia started her search for a place to found a new church, and settled on a rental space on Highway 321 in the north of Clover in November of 2010.  After slightly less than a year in that space Noelia moved to the location of the Clover Church of the Nazarene, where her group shared space with is usual membership.  In January of 2012 she moved the church to its current location, formerly the space of a congregation from the Assembly of God, from whom she rents the property.

Raphael’s role at the church is multi-purpose.  During services he runs the sound system; during the week he mows the lawn and takes care of its building.  Preaching and teaching is the province of Noelia and the church elders.

Noelia’s congregation numbers at about sixty individuals, including children.  Most live in the area of York and Clover, SC, and come from blue collar backgrounds.  The congregation is a nearly 40/60 mix of immigrant and born Americans, mostly of Mexican descent with some Colombians and Puerto Ricans, as well as a single Honduran and a single El Salvadoran member.

The church maintains ties with three other Spanish language churches in Gastonia, NC, as well as at least one in Lincolnton, NC.  Mrs. Quinones goes to preach at them on special occasions, and vice versa.  Aside from its special relationship with the Clover Church of the Nazarene, the church maintains ties with the local Church of God bishop in Lake Wylie, SC.

The church provides local charity in the form of food and clothing for the unemployed, though as a rented space their ability to raise large operations on the property are limited.

On the subject of Church and State, Mrs. Quinones said that the Bible tells her to obey the law, but not when the law goes against what’s found in the Bible.

Churchspotting Appearance on WHRI’s “Straight Talk” Now Available Online

The audio of my interview with Manning Kimmel on the radio show Straight Talk yesterday is now available in full here.

 

Churchspotting Radio Appearance

I’m appearing today on WRHI’s “Straight Talk” today, AM 1340/FM 94.3, at 12:30 PM EST, to talk about Churchspotting.

Iglesia de Dios Casa de la Restauracion, Clover SC – Visited on 7/1/12

Tucked away on a bare green hillside a few blocks from the main roads of Clover, SC, the Iglesia de Dios Casa de la Restauracion is an unassuming, single-story brick building.  Its dark roof and unadorned rectangular walls match the templates of the dentist office to its left and the Clover Area Assistance building to its right.

Most of the Casa de la Restauracion’s interior ws taken up with its sanctuary, a blue-carpeted hall dominated by two matched rows of wooden pews.  Windows ringed the space, shuttered against the ferocious glare on the first day of July–the heat outside was record-breaking, and the small church’s air conditioning was put to a severe test.  Beyond the pews stood a podium, and behind that rose a low stage set with an altar laid with flowers, a pulpit, seating for a choir, a drum set and guitar, and a pair of flags: the ‘Christian flag’, white with a blue upper-left corner emblazoned with a red cross, and the American flag opposite.  With the windows shuttered, the sanctuary’s light came from long halogen light fixtures in the ceiling.

According to the church’s pastor, Noelia Quinones, the Casa de la Restauracion was about 1.5 years old as of July 1, 2012.  Mrs. Quinones son and husband both took an active role in performing the July 1 service, with Mr. Quinones managing the sound system and younger Joel Quinones translating his mother’s sermon which, like all the rest of the service, was delivered in Spanish.

The Casa’s congregation trickled in over the course of the day’s ~1.5 hour service.  By the service’s end over thirty worshippers were gathered, from very young children to a handful of older couples.  The congregation’s dress varied from jeans and t-shirts among younger members to formal clothing–slacks, collared shirts and dresses–amongst the older members.  About 1/3rd of those gathered were children, a higher density of young people than Churchspotting normally observes at religious functions.  The Casa had no children’s church program running in concert with the main worship service; children stayed with their families in the main sanctuary throughout.

The service started once over a dozen congregants were assembled, at approximately 1:05 PM.  Mrs. Quinones began by welcoming the group and introducing Churchspotting’s representatives, myself and interpreter Michael Milam, to the congregation at large.  She then proceeded to conduct preliminary prayers and invoke the Holy Spirit.  Prayer was conducted at the Casa de la Restauracion in the following manner: a speaker guided the worshippers from the podium or pulpit while they stood with heads bowed and one or both hands raised to shoulder height or higher.

After the opening prayer Mrs. Quinones ceded the podium to George, one of the church’s elders, who led the group in a series of pre-recorded songs played over the church’s loudspeakers.  Then a Sunday School teacher, according to Joel Quinones he struggled with alcoholism just three years prior.  Midway through the second song the congregation stood to greet each other, shaking hands, hugging, and circulating among the pews.  After a third song George read from the Psalms and spoke briefly to the congregation.  “This isn’t just something we come here to experience,” he said.  “It isn’t just four walls.”

Then George ceded to the stage to the church’s pastor, Noelia Quinones.  Her son Joel translated her speech to English as she first read from the Old Testament, reciting a story of the prophet Elijah from the 2nd Book of Kings before launching into a sermon based on the reading.  She paused every few lines to allow Joel to reiterate her points in English, but as the sermon progressed she stormed further and further ahead of him.

Though her appearance was that of an unassuming, maternal middle-aged woman, when Noelia Quinones hit her stride she spoke with the same ferocious passion of any Pentecostal minister yet witnessed by Churchspotting.  At her greatest exultation she left any attempt at translation by Joel thoroughly in the dust.  At times, both during the sermon and after, she spoke with such emotion that she seemed to be on the verge of tears.

During her sermon she spoke of how, as a young woman, she was told that she was sterile and would never have children.  She said she prayed for six years after that diagnosis, and at the end of that time found herself pregnant with her son.  She said that many members of her congregation came from broken homes, or struggled with addiction, or had children involved in drugs and criminal gangs.  She told them that if they were faithful God would help them with those troubles just as He’d given her a son.

After the sermon adult members of the church gathered in a semicircle about the altar and received communion, the ritual consumption of bread and wine that takes its symbols from the Last Supper of Christian scripture.  Mrs. Quinones spoke over the ceremony so that her calls and prayers echoed through the sanctuary.

Another prayer followed communion, and those who’d taken part stood with heads bowed and hands raised before breaking into another moment of fellowship, shaking hands and hugging.  Announcements for the church followed, before a final group prayer concluded the service.  The July day that awaited the congregation of the Iglesiade Dios Casa de la Restauracion was scorching.

A special thanks goes out to Michael Milam of Charleston, SC for serving as Churchspotting’s interpreter for this outing.

Brief Delay

Due to inclement and severe weather, this week’s Churchspotting will be delayed by a few hours.  Please check in tomorrow for our first article on Iglesia de Dios Casa de la Restauracion, Churchspotting’s first coverage of a Spanish-language religious service.