Do you ever have one of those days when you pause and don’t just look, but actually SEE what is happening around you and think, “Wow, God is doing some really cool things!”? It happened to me last Sunday.
It started Sunday morning as one of our adult Sunday School classes gathered in the Parlor Courtyard for in-person Sunday School. It continued after a rushed Sunday afternoon as I returned to campus to get ready to meet with our youth. I drove by one parking lot where our children were gathered for Mission Possible Kids. Admittedly, my first priority was to make sure my son had some water since he and his dad rushed out of the house quickly to get there. But, I sat in my car for a bit and watched as they had some time to reconnect with one another and were putting together special treats for teachers at our Adopt-a-Schools. I knew that later they would be learning about the labyrinth and that some of those families would end up there later, walking this new addition to our campus.
I drove on to Anderson Center and was getting set up for our students to gather on the green space just outside the building and, with each new person who showed up, I was excited to see them. But, I kept noticing other cars driving by and I remembered that our sixth grade Confirmands were meeting in the Parlor Courtyard with their leaders and Faith Partners for sacred conversations and learning as they prepare to profess their faith publicly in worship on May 16.
Our youth were kind enough to humor me as we played a game (I am not a youth director!) and then they entered into a great discussion about what it means to be courageous and what it DOESN’T mean, as we looked at the story of Moses. After youth, two students wanted to see if they could find an object that was in Anderson and hadn’t been touched since the beginning of the pandemic. It was a stuffed animal, and they knew it was silly, and yet the joy of finding that familiar object and remembering the silliness and fun of what it meant for them was a reminder that this was a safe space for them where they not only learn, but have fun and know they belong.
While the youth were meeting, a Covenant Group, chairs in hand, came and set up on the playground so that they could meet while one of their children played. After packing up and getting in my car, I drove past a group gathered in yet another parking lot – Mission Central had a food truck out as part of an appreciation and celebration of all those who volunteer and serve this community. Many had their chairs out to sit and eat and visit with one another. I knew our Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-anon groups would be meeting a little later and as I drove out the Pipeline entrance, I saw someone I didn’t know sitting on a bench near the Village Garden. He seemed to just enjoy sitting there on a beautiful evening, perhaps he was praying, perhaps he was resting, perhaps he was just admiring the growing vegetables. Whatever it was he was doing, we had offered him a resting place to do it.
As I drove home, I had this moment of overwhelming thankfulness for all I had just seen – not just drove past, but actually SAW. And then I thought about all the cars that drive through our parking lot on their way somewhere else (we get a lot of that!), and I wondered what they saw.
These past fourteen months or so have been hard for all of us in ways we may not have even yet realized. Those of us working at the church and being a part of re-opening conversations have felt the weight of the task before us. With each decision we have made, we know some will support it and others will question or speak against it, some will think we are moving too slowly, and others are not ready for the changes. We know it is hard, and we all want things to be back to how they were.
Yet, if things were back to “normal,” would I have seen what I saw on Sunday? I constantly hear from people that one of the places they connect deeply with God is in nature, and yet, when we get to our church campus, we so often just go in the building and don’t see the possibilities of the outdoor spaces around us. We often hear how intimidating it is for a first-time guest to even just enter our large building. And I wonder, if we continue to keep our eyes open, what new and creative ministry ideas will God place before us to reach those people who may not be ready to walk in the building, but are wondering what God seems to be doing in this place.
Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!