It was a tough and glorious day yesterday at church. Let me start with the glorious part.
We welcomed twenty people who have chosen to call our church "home" during the last year. That's 50 percent of our average attendance. To those who keep saying, "we need to get more people in church!" I hope the visual image of those 20 people standing in front of the church being welcomed and blessed conveyed the reality that people ARE finding their way to our door and deciding to stay. Thank you, God, for blessing all of us with the richness that is this growth.
Two recent family additions add five kids to our ranks. A first-time visitor yesterday, a denominational transplant from California, came with her two young children. Our Sunday school program now stands a chance of putting down roots and sending out shoots of growth. We had twenty adults in the adult education hour. Amen. Amen.
The weather yesterday was equally glorious, an outward and visible sign of the inward grace that danced and sang throughout our day. My soul feels as though it has been kissed with divine, abiding love. I pray that the elation can be sustained for just a little while to keep the weight of other challenges from making their odious presence known.
The tough part of the day was, in a sense, the dark side of its glory. Within two minutes of my arrival one of our members shared with me his diagnosis of cancer. While the potluck meal was being cleared away and the cheerful voices of the morning began to depart, a new member shared the pain of her life that, then and now, evokes tears. In the parking lot, waiting in the car for Ken to lock up the building, another member poured out his stress and the challenges that burden his health daily, including that his family is living on the edge of bankruptcy.
Every community is made up of people with stories that echo these. That the pain should emerge in the presence of yesterday's joy doesn't surprise me. It's just that it's been awhile in this place since either have been present with the kind of pulse that is now apparent. It's the vineyard of life, and ministry.
My prayer life has a more vital pulse, too--an indication of the kind of terrain through which I now move, and a measure of what is at stake for the people I serve, and for me. Lord, have mercy. Amen. Alleluia!