Annual meetings come and go...

Today we celebrated the 246th annual meeting of this faith community: we welcomed in 7 new members (most of whom were under 40 years of age which in this tradition is HUGE) as well as introduced the congregation to a daughter of the church who is now in seminary. Her dad, my predecessor, was in worship, too - which was another huge blessing. (He is a wonderfully bright, tender and insightful man who has maintained clear and careful professional boundaries.) I was thrilled to see him in the Sanctuary alongside his daughter who is in her first year at Yale Divinity School.

Last year at this time I was terrified: the stock market had gone south, there was fierce resistance to making changes in our music and programming ministries, it was bitterly cold and grey outside and I felt something similar within. As some may recall, I was not certain we were going to make it. Three things changed, however, so that a year later I am singing a very different song:

1) My band mates in "Between the Banks" kept praying and playing beautiful and powerful songs of faith, hope and love. We worked on both a TV program and a Good Friday show that kept pushing me out of myself and into the music. And every Tuesday night at rehearsal - and as the shows took shape and form - I could see a parable of faith being realized: out of the darkness came a light that the darkness could not put out. One of my on-going prayers continues to take shape with this band as we find ways to strengthen, encourage and enrich one another.


2) One of my dear church friends and colleagues had a WTF session with me one morning. (This has become a notorious and well-loved joke between us now, but she needed to ask me clearly: what the fuck are you thinking?) I was not living by faith - I wanted proof and signs - I was not practicing what I preached. So, without hesitation, she asked me: What the fuck? You can't be serious about throwing in the towel NOW! We've come so far... WTF!!!? (When I retold this tale to the pastoral relations team this past summer, they laughed until they wept - they expressed shock that she would be so blunt with the pastor - and all agreed that everyone needs a WTF conversation from time to time.) Let's just say that without accountability and perspective we can all get lost in the wilderness, yes?

3) And in time there were signs that things were coming together. This picture has become an icon of sorts for me; it was taken during Eucharist on Palm Sunday. Somehow the liturgy had been printed - and proofed - and I got to Sunday morning without realizing that our prayers for Holy Communion had been left out. So, being dispirited, I said, "Oh that's ok... we can just skip it today." At which point my WTF buddy looked at me in horror and said, "Snap out of it man, what do you mean we can just skip it? We can do this so let's make it happen." (You can see her holding the chalice right over my shoulder!)

So I mentioned to the congregation that we would be celebrating Eucharist after the regular liturgy was over - thinking that no one would stay - and 80 people crowded into the chancel. It was beautiful. I wept. There were old timers and little children, first time guests and strangers and friends. As one of my new members said, "Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about - THAT was going to church!" And he was right...

I was humbled and encouraged and blessed that day - and from that time forward we have been turning the corner in this church renewal experiment. Today was another sign - no need for WTF today - we could all sense it. And while we still have lots of work to do, God's spirit is leading us and I give thanks. Just like this little Advent tune says from last month...

Comments

Black Pete said…
On a good day, you can see for miles...
RJ said…
ain't that the truth...

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