A family discovers a focus on Scripture, consistent messages, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere at their local WELS church.
Consistency. Structure. A focus on Scripture. These are just some of the things that Harry and Angie Corey say they appreciate about Peace, Aiken, S.C. The Coreys, who joined Peace in May, say that Lutheranism finally gave them the answers they were looking for.
Their spiritual journeys
Although the Coreys had been Pentecostal most of their adult lives, they both had different religious backgrounds growing up. Harry started out in the Methodist Wesleyan Church. “I remember listening to the music and listening to the Word,” he says. “It really touched me. When I got home, I would go out into our old barn, and I’d just sing songs to the Lord.”
When he was 14, Harry began attending a Pentecostal church because it was closer to where he lived. “At first I was scared to death, seeing the things that went on in those services,” he says. “I had a lot of questions about when people would speak in tongues or when they would go running through church.” But Harry stayed in the Pentecostal church throughout his teens and during his first marriage.
Angie, on the other hand, was raised Baptist; she attended church until she was a teenager. “Then some things changed in my life, and I got pregnant at an early age,” she says. “I dropped out of church when I was 16 because of the shame and feeling embarrassed. I was out of church for a long time.”
Harry also fell away from church after his divorce. “The thing that bothered me was that when I was going through that difficult situation, no one from church said anything to me. They never asked if I was okay or checked to see if I needed help,” he says. “It made me bitter for a while.”
When Harry and Angie met, neither was attending church. But after they got married, both had a change of heart. Angie says her brother helped guide her back to church. “One day we prayed together, and I repented of my sins,” she says. When she shared the news with Harry, their religious life began to change.
They decided to join a Pentecostal church—something that was familiar to Harry. “After being out of church a few years, it was good to be back,” he says. “It was good serving and working alongside my wife. We worked in the nursery, sang in the choir, and volunteered for vacation Bible school. That aspect of church brought us such happiness.”
But he says he continued to have questions about the church’s teachings. “When Scripture was read during the service, the stories or teachings that followed wouldn’t match up in a clear way to point to the real meaning of Scripture,” says Harry. “I always wished I could go deeper into Scripture, but there were never any classes that could really teach me the Bible and what things meant.”
Harry and Angie also remember feeling like they didn’t quite measure up. They say they felt there was pressure to attend every single service and to pay tithes. If they didn’t, they weren’t considered to be “real” Christians. “We just always felt guilty,” says Angie. Over the years, they also tried attending some nondenominational churches, but “always inside of me there was something that didn’t quite gel, and I just couldn’t figure it out,” says Harry.
“Sometimes God uses different methods to open your eyes,” says Angie. She thinks that was the case when she stumbled across a video series on YouTube from a Lutheran pastor. He was discussing false doctrines, including some that were taught in the Pentecostal church. “He went over topics like the manifestation gifts, the tongues—things that I believed in,” she says. “It opened my eyes. I began to question things, and I got hungry to know more.”
Angie began looking for sermons from other Lutheran pastors, including ones in her area. In that search, she found the website of Peace in Aiken. After watching one of the sermons of Peace’s pastor, Jonathan Bourman, Angie kept going back for more. “I was like Wow! These are so good! I really got a lot out of the teachings,” she says.
Angie decided to visit in person. She wanted to make it a surprise for Harry and their two children, Jacob (18) and Sarah (16). “I told my family, ‘Let’s visit a new church on Sunday.’ Everyone was on board, but I wouldn’t tell them where we were going,” she says. When they pulled up at Peace, Angie says her family was very surprised to see a Lutheran church, but any uncertainty melted away when they walked through the doors.
“Everyone was so friendly and so sweet,” she says. “And Pastor just got right in there, shook our hands, and made us feel welcome.”
The service wasn’t anything like they’d experienced before—in a good way. “I guess our eyeballs were about the size of 50 cent pieces,” says Angie. “But we loved it. It was wonderful, and we’ve been there ever since.”
The Coreys went on to take Peace 101 Bible information classes. They remember that when Bourman was teaching, he had two Bibles—one in Greek and one in Hebrew. “And he could read them!” says Harry. “Then I found out he had gone to college for eight years. I thought to myself, There’s a guy who’s serious about what he’s doing. That carried a lot of weight with me.”
As they continued their instruction, one thing that stuck out for Angie was the consistency. “That’s what we’re finding out as we learn more about the Lutheran church,” she says. “Everything is so consistent. Everything is from Scripture. And that’s what’s so good.” She says she feels like they’ve almost had to start over and relearn everything from Baptism and Communion to the creeds and the law and gospel.
The Coreys also appreciate that the services have structure, which makes it easier to remember the lessons from week to week. “It’s such a night-and-day difference,” says Angie. “It feels like we are on a schedule with Scripture, rather than being all over the map. Being structured is something we didn’t realize we needed—until now.”
That structure has also helped Harry and Angie’s kids adjust to the new church and liturgical style. “The kids love it,” says Angie. “Sarah and Jacob have both said that they can remember more of the sermon now. Even in the middle of the week they are still thinking about what was taught on Sunday. The Scriptures are coming alive to us like never before.”
Angie says this whole experience has been very humbling. “I know that God loves me, but this was his love in action. It’s like God was saying, ‘I love you so much that I want to put you here where you’re taught my Word.’”
Harry agrees. “It really showed us that God hears us and answers prayers,” he says. “I can honestly say that I think we’ve found not only the truth, but also the peace that the Bible talks about—the peace that passes all understanding.”
Author: Alicia A. Neumann
Volume 107, Number 10
Issue: October 2020
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