Jun 11, 2017
Each year I look forward to our Outdoor Worship & Picnic. There’s something so special about sitting under the trees on the front lawn shaded from the morning sun. Listening to the birds singing, lawn mowers humming and cars driving by, all sounds of our community living around us. As a church we keep talking about how to get more people coming into our building, filling our pews, joining our committees, contributing to ongoing ministry with their time, talents and treasures. But on this day, we meet our neighbours where they are, in the world.
Leading up to our outdoor worship I had the pleasure of inviting a young family to have their infant son baptized that day. I imagined the beauty of such a sacrament in the midst of God’s creation surrounded by supportive family, friends and neighbours. I realized that it was a greater challenge than I had anticipated. Carrying the font from the sanctuary to the grassy lawn was the easy part thanks to Lenny and Ron!!! But what else did I need to take from our “normal” service to the outdoors? Did we need to recite the New Creed? Did I have to wear my gown and stole? Did we have to have the offering “Presented” with a sung response? Some of the traditional words and actions didn’t seem to fit in the outdoor setting. Since the Community Children’s Choir was singing we had many “unchurched” families joining us that day. How to make them feel welcome? I realized that the important elements were water, community, the Holy Spirit of the Creator who moved above the waters of creation and still blows and flows in our lives like the morning breeze across our faces.
I realized that we can get so caught up in what we think church is about, with words, and processes and protocols that we sometimes forget that for others it has little or no meaning. We have become a “tribe” with our own language and practices that are foreign to many. So my challenge that Sunday was to realize that what was most important was to welcome everyone in the Spirit of Christ who said I am the door. To make sure that door of welcome and inclusion was wide open and transparent. It meant letting go of some of the things I felt I “should” be doing and step out of my own “comfort zone” in order to make room for others.
Worshipping and sharing a common meal together on the grass in the sunshine of that morning brings to mind the many times that Jesus gathered just outside of towns, on a hillside or next to a lake, speaking stories of new life and renewal, of hospitality and healing, and sharing a meal. It turns out it wasn’t so “uncomfortable” after all. In fact it felt strangely freeing and life giving. I look forward to more opportunities for us to move outside of our building and habits and into the community to share the stories of Jesus, to pray together, eat together, to find ways of welcoming one another, to feel blessed and renewed. Thank you to everyone who participated to make that such a special day.