November 4, 2017

You know how you get those pile-on months?

Our church has a lot going on over the next few weeks, and it’s all exciting and good but has required a lot of coordination and planning. A LOT. My most sincere gratitude for everyone who said, “Heck yea, I’m excited to support what we’re doing! What can I do?”

A thing I say a lot to myself and to lay people is that in church life, the process is as important as the final “product” or program.

Here’s an example that I think of often:

I remember attending a beautiful worship service in seminary and happening upon one of the worship leaders griping to the other behind the sanctuary after it was over. Something had gone wrong with the logistics or a cue and she was ranting about it. I hadn’t noticed but there she was venting to the pianist, who was nodding sympathetically.

I felt badly, sort of guilty for feeling blessed and ministered to by a worship service that clearly had been a bad process for the person leading it. I thought a lot about how the sausage gets made in church life and the public and more insider aspects of a congregation’s ministry.

What I have learned through the years is that the behind-the-scenes of the church is the church. It’s where the ministry really happens because it’s where the relationships are engaged. The rough sandpaper of community that can rub us raw, but there are also moments of unexpected grace when something you thought was messed up turns out to be perfect. There can be tremendous pressure from so many different hopes and expectations co-existing in one community, but occasionally God’s grace descends and everyone realizes, “Ah, this isn’t about me but about the church, and we’re all in service to the greater mission.” Everyone settles in and breathes in sync, more or less, and things start sliding into place.

Sometimes the ministry of the clergy and the laity is a pepper grinder we go through and sometimes it’s a gourmet meal set before us. The alchemical ingredient that gets us out of the grinder to the banquet is covenantal love.  Covenantal love isn’t an emotion, it’s a commitment. It calls us to remember that we’re a church, not a corporation, and that we are not consumers but pilgrims. Covenantal love is what prompts us to check not only the things that personally interest us in the church but all its programs and ministries because we belong to all of the church, and all of it belongs to us.

Covenantal love is what draws us out of an individualistic orientation and into community, where we consent to be made a people.

In this season of harvest and thanksgiving, may we be drawn more deeply into love, the key ingredient for everything.

In faith, hope and love, Rev. Vicki