Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's not about the coffee

These are some of the things that happened in my church this morning in the time between services, when some of the early folk and the later folk were briefly together:

The organizer of our Christmas giving tree bustled around a little Christmas tree in the back making sure everyone understood how it was supposed to work: You pick a gift tag off the tree, purchase the gift specified for a needy child in our area, and bring it back to church by mid-December. I think she's unnecessarily anxious about this project--witness the fact she felt the need to get started in mid-October--but it's understandable, since it's the first time she's ever done anything like this. "I was always complaining that we should do more outreach, and then it occurred to me that I should stop complaining and do it," she said.

A small group gathered around to listen to a woman whose daughter has been ill and will have surgery this week.

The reader, pressed into service on short notice, spent some time alone with the readings for the day.

A couple of people came in, took their places, and sat quietly.

The organist and one of our better singers went over a new piece of music they were getting ready to teach the rest of the congregation.

Other folks talked about what they did last night and what they planned to do on this glorious fall Sunday afternoon.

Two women discussed who would represent the church at this week's meeting of our local council of churches, which has a big food pantry as its major project.

And yes, there was a coffee pot in the corner, and that good coffee aroma did fill the room like a hymn.

And gradually the pews filled up for the second service and the early people left, and the room fell silent for a few minutes, until the organist started to play and we all stood and sang with our usual enthusiasm, and it was time to begin again:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. ...

I think I have been looking for this place for as long as I can remember.

It's not about standing around and chatting with your friends. It's about building Christian community. How can we comfort the sorrowful if we don't know who they are? How can we effectively evangelize people we don't get a chance to talk to? Is there a better time than Sunday morning to get everyone together to plan what we'll do next to support the needy in our broader community? We care about each other in a personal way because we know each other, and together we care about God's other children. This kind of fellowship is deeply interwoven with the readings we hear and ponder and the hymns we sing during the formal part of our worship. We come together to celebrate the eucharist as a family, then we go out to be ourselves a sign of God's presence in the world.

We are a small church without much auxiliary space, so all these things happen in the sanctuary, and in a way that's a blessing. It's good to be reminded that our prayers flow from the rest of our lives, and our lives in turn proceed out of prayer.

... Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.

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