Today, I received one of those wonderful, rare emails, a sort of email that doesn’t land in my inbox very often, an email to cherish and keep, especially when things get difficult, which they are bound to do. Today, I received an email that included the word “exciting,” as in “excited about what we’re doing at Old South.”
Here’s a little background. The Maine Conference United Church of Christ Annual Meeting was held this past weekend. A few months ago, I heard one of the coordinators worrying about what seemed like a small array of workshops. I decided to propose one that focused on lay leadership of worship. At Old South, we are doing quite a lot of lay leadership and have done so for several years. I spoke to a few people who have led worship at Old South and asked them if they would be willing to participate in a panel that would cover both the “nuts and bolts” as well as their experience of leading worship and how that has brought vitality to our small church.
A few people agreed to be a part of this workshop, but there was some noticeable skepticism: who would attend such a workshop? Would anyone be interested in this topic? I decided to ignore the questions and plow forward. We decided on a plan.
We gathered Saturday afternoon in our assigned room at Husson University. A few people joined us, and then a few more and a few more still. By the time the workshop started, we had a full room.
I introduced the topic and the lay people from Old South and then the panelists each took turns talking about how they put together worship as well as how it felt. Along the way, we mentioned the other new things we’ve been doing at Old South—whittling down to one committee, teams without terms, the elimination of the board of deacons, and an open worship sign up that encourages a variety of opportunities for people to be involved in worship.
The feeling in the room became lively and animated. Questions and answers went back and forth. Before we knew it, the hour was over. Yet, we felt as though we had only scratched the surface.
Those who attended our workshop were interested in what we are doing and understanding the process. We talked not only about the superficial aspects of what we are doing, but also the underlying, vital elements to what we do: trust and a willingness to take risks (more about these in a later blog post).
After the workshop, the panelists and I looked at each other in amazement. We could not escape the notion that we are doing something exciting. It may not be earth shattering. It may not bring a whole bunch of new members, but it felt exciting, and faithful and true to the Spirit who joins us on the journey.
We experienced a moment of wonder and grace, as well as a reminder that numbers are a poor way to measure faithfulness to the Gospel. Old South may be small, and burdened by a sanctuary that is now too big. We may encounter challenges. We may find ourselves fretful at our worship attendance that goes down bit by bit, year after year.
But, we are doing something exciting, life-giving and life-affirming. We are a community and we are church, willing to venture into new places, trusting in each other and in the God we worship. Yes, it is exciting.