Church today went very well. I arrived extra early. At Church of The Messiah the first service (and there is rarely a second) is at 10:30 AM, so arriving extra early for me is around 7:30 AM. I'm the kind of priest that needs to fuss around and do things myself like make the first cup of coffee, take the communion bread out the freezer to thaw, and reposition chairs that aren't quite exactly the way I want them lined up. Along the way I also put an A-Frame sign outside advertising the service. The point of this sign, BTW, is not so much attracting people that would otherwise not be coming to Palm Sunday Worship, but rather to help those that maybe visiting find the right door! Like most Anglican churches, the correct door to get into Messiah is not at all the obvious door! Our Parish Architect came up with some good ideas to help fix that problem, incidentally, but we don't have the money to pay for it right now. So we'll make do.
The liturgy itself went very well. The music was excellent. Matthew really showed off his versatility by leading us with (no kidding): djembe drum, piano, organ, tingsha, and harp! I really expected him to pull out a flute for something, but I think that will have to wait until Maundy Thursday! It all worked well, especially when he began the service with a drum-circle style prelude.
There were a bunch of visitors, which was terrific. Plenty of energy and lots of strong liturgy. Tons of kids running around, as usual, including some that had been away on spring break.
After the liturgy and chatting with some folks I spent the next hour with the confirmation class. They are such a great group of kids. We are really taking our time to develop a well-bonded group, and I'm sure the results are going to be fantastic. I want them to experience relationships that transform their lives! I'm also continually impressed with Kerrie's gifts for working with them. I'm learning a lot from her. We are going to keep meeting with the kids through the summer, and in September we'll round out the prep with a retreat at Holy Cross and then the Confirmation service itself!
A couple of things I'm thankful for right now. I'm thankful that the Healing Prayer Service is doing well enough to continue indefinitely. I'm also thankful that the Mom's group has started up. I'm utterly convinced that the future of Messiah is in creating flourishing little ministries like this. I imagine a bunch of them with different and often overlapping constituencies, many of whom are not going to be coming on Sunday mornings. So these little churches need to be church for them.
Part of the challenge is getting to the place where these church groups can operate without my direct involvement. There simply isn't enough of me to go around to support more than a few initiatives of this sort, but if we are able to build true lay ministry, then our capacity becomes limitless. I'll still be connected, of course, but I won't be in the center of these groups like the model of parish ministry usually requires.
I think the key for this is finding people's passions and empowering them. But that means really getting to know my people and what turns them on about God. Interestingly, I'm not always sure even they know what that might be! Discernment, discernment, discernment. Mission is all about listening!
I still have so much to learn about how to transform a parish culture--and yet I've come so far in the last year. I'm really starting to get excited about what is possible by the grace of God. I imagine one of the next things to explore is rebooting the workplace bible study as a multi-parish partnership. I'm also fantasizing about developing some creative Alt.Worship expressions rooted at Messiah.
It's a clear blue sky, you see?