Today I got up early to tape the sunrise at Ocean Isle Beach before the 8:30am morning worship. It was an absolutely beautiful morning. While I had not been 100% sure this sabbatical would be "relaxing" or "restful," I now am confident it will indeed be a breath of fresh air. Seeing so much of God's countryside and filming things like sunrises forces my nose out of books and into the beautiful creation around us. As I filmed the beach worship service Shallotte Presbyterian Church leads on Ocean Isle Beach, I realized that the scenery is not the most striking difference from traditional worship indoors. The ocean breeze, more than anything, transported my awareness to God's grace...followed by the sound of waves and gulls. God was pulling out all the stops and inviting me through each of my senses to be aware of the Almighty's presence and love today. John Causey and a dozen faithful volunteers assisted our Lord in making a beautiful worship service for countless families at Ocean Isle this morning.
Without intentionally planning it this way, today has been a very sentimental blast from the past. Ocean Isle Beach was "the beach" my family always visited when I grew up. My aunt and uncle had a beach house there and it was always special to go there. The second congregation I visited today was equally sentimental: Black River Presbyterian Church. My grandpa would always take my father and me fishing on the Black River growing up. "Fishing" had always meant black river and "beach" had always meant Ocean Isle. I thank God for the familiar sights, sounds and smells that my eight-year-old self has never forgotten.
I encourage everyone in the Presbytery to make a pilgrimage to Black River Presbyterian Church. George Washington was a wee eight-year-old when the church was established. Even if you are not a history buff, your travel will not be unrewarded. It's one of the most historical, interesting, environmentally-conscious churches in North Carolina and the level of home-cooked cooking will leave you wondering "when can I sneak back here." Wondering what Sunday you can catch a meal after church? Easy: every Sunday. I hope you will be as inspired as I am after hearing and seeing what the Holy Spirit is doing at Ocean Isle and Black River.
J. Evan Harrison
Evan is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) currently serving Sunnyside Presbyterian Church in Vander, NC. He is enjoying a sabbatical July of 2017 to capture what the Holy Spirit is doing in the presbytery of Coastal Carolina in miniature documentaries and hopes to provide a place online where more congregations can post and watch similar videos. Married to the love of his life, Emily, they have two children.