Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Service

Last Saturday evening we held our first service ever at New Day UMC. A month ago, I told my Advisory Team that I was worried – worried we’d have too many people show up. How many do you think might be there? Well, I told them, 50 weren’t out of the question, and in my mind I was thinking 75. A week ago, I was approached by the local newspaper wanting to do an article in anticipation of our first service; I am probably the only church planter in history to turn down this free publicity, but I was worried we’d have more people than we could handle. How many do you think might be there? Well, I told them, the space holds 100, and in my mind I was hoping 110. Saturday night came along, and I was right – adults and children totaling just under 150 people showed up! We were filled to the walls and out into the gathering space ~ it was fantastic!

Representatives from 8 of our 14 partnering churches were present to help bless our inaugural service. They symbolically carried forward the lights of Christ to our darkened community and prayed that this would be a place where Christ’s spirit would shine. Blessings were also posted and shared from others in the family of believers, from as near as Becker to as far as Nashville, TN; over 40 prayers, well-wishes, and notes of encouragement surrounded those first gatherers in this new space of sanctuary, silently giving witness to the saints from all times and places who continue to bless us. One woman we discovered, has been praying for this particular church for over 25 years.

But the baptisms were the most spiritually touching for many. This celebration of God’s love was poured or sprinkled on the heads and hearts of three babies, one pre-schooler, and one senior high student. The three-year-old was my assistant for the entire ritual, helping me to pour the water, show off the babies, and announce loudly when his name was read “That’s Me!” “Alleluias” rang so loudly through the air at the conclusion, they practically knocked me over. The mood spilled over into the parking lot and carried people home with Easter joy.

Now, what I haven’t told you, of course, are all those things that kept Janet and I tossing and turning all night long afterwards: Things not said. People not talked to. Rituals that did not go as planned. A sermon that did not flow in its expected order. Childcare that was ... Wow! Does that need work! Staging that blocked the projected prayers from half the crowd. A lack of sound equipment which kept God knows how many people from hearing what was being said. Passing-of-the-Peace near the end which spontaneously turned into Forget-the-Last-Song-Announcements-and-Benediction-cuz-That’s-All-Folks! Flowers which did not get gifted to the partnering churches....... Need I go on?!

But a wise friend reminded me come Monday, “But practically everyone went home with excitement, a big smile and having experienced a very holy time. Forget the little stuff. The big stuff happened, and that’s what matters.”

So, that’s my advice for you as well ~ whenever your best-laid plans keep you up at night, ask yourself if this is the big stuff or the little stuff. If the holy has been experienced and sent people home with blessings, then just forget everything else. What matters most has been achieved.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Philippians 1:18