This was the view off my front porch Saturday night at 9:30. Well, this, plus trees frosted with several inches of snow and sidewalks promising a good work-out of shoveling the next morning. When this is what it looks like from the front porch on Saturday night at 9:30 it is pretty safe to say church attendance the next day might possibly be a little sparse.
For some pastors, we professionals who spend hours reading books about “how to grow the church”, a small crowd in worship can often be a dismal prospect. Good thing I know from last winter that snow Sundays at Calvary are hands-down my favorite Sundays of the year.
Yesterday did not disappoint.
There were exactly three of us in the church office when two visitors appeared at the front door shaking snow off their boots about 5 minutes before worship was scheduled to start. If there was any question we were having church, well, it was answered right then. (We’re all about welcoming visitors, you know.) I informed our two present members that they were now assigned worship leadership positions and all five of us traipsed upstairs to our 900-seat sanctuary.
Folks trickled in over the next few minutes until we had a nice little crowd–maybe 40–all sitting toward the front of the sanctuary. There were no microphones, no speaking from the pulpit, no choir.
The prelude/opening hymn was led by Kevin Hagan and Laura Canfield, who each felt confident enough to play one hand of Jesus Loves Me (in the key of C) on the piano. They scrunched on the piano bench and made it through (while admittedly a little rocky at first, it got better as they went).
Next, Luke Canfield Thomas (age 7) did a fabulous job leading us in the Call to Worship. His worship leadership career is just starting, I’m thinking.
Then, instead of asking people to pass the peace of Christ to their neighbor I asked people to pass the peace of Christ to . . . everyone.
How great was that?
Several folks read scripture and since we could not really sing the new hymn we’d plan to learn for that day (can’t find a link to the words, but the hymn is: Who is My Mother, Who is My Brother? from the Chalice Hymnal), Laura read the beautiful words as our call to prayer. While usually one of the ministers prays a formal prayer from the pulpit, this time we shared prayer concerns and John Taylor prayed a beautiful, spontaneous prayer.
The sermon was a talk from notes on a music stand down front. Everyone jumped in throughout the sermon, adding comments or raising questions. At the end we had an interesting discussion during which a few folks shared personal stories and perspectives.
The offering was taken by impromptu ushers. A member whom I have been trying to get to lead in worship since I’ve been here but she won’t because she’s too shy stepped up to the plate and prayed the offertory prayer. Katy Canfield Thomas sang her own little rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, perhaps not in the exact notes written on the page but with her high, sweet 10 year old voice.
And at the end we gathered in a circle and sang Jesus Loves Me again (this time without piano accompaniment, sadly). We held hands and stood there together as we talked about walking into the week ahead in peace.
Oh, there’s something so beautiful about boiling things down to the essentials. I mean, I love the organ and I really like to wear my robe, but there’s something so precious about the rare opportunities we have to listen–really listen–to one another . . . to actually physically practice what we believe about God calling and using each one of us and about recognizing the almost-tangible Spirit of God in and among us. It brings tears to my eyes because when you boil it down all the essentials are right there.
Thanks be to God.