I woke up early on Sunday. I was nervous, scared, wondering if I had forgotten anything, excited, timid about my sermon, thankful for everyone’s efforts… As I went to prayer, I asked God to give us great joy– please infuse our congregation with joy and energy that morning. Make us grateful for a place to worship, grateful for this new church.
Left the house around 7:30am. Laurel took a picture of me holding my briefcase. I flashed back 30 years to my first day at Matthew Whaley elementary in Williamsburg. My first stop was the Starbucks at Lee Heights. I wanted to provide coffee and pastries for our great liturgical team. I invited all of my baristas to church. We should probably get an account with them…
When I walked into Trinity Baptist, I teared up for the first time. It was beautiful. There was new carpet all over the place, the walls were freshly painted. It smelled great. The four Sunday School rooms were ready for kids. The Sanctuary had brand new BCPs and Bibles in all the pews. I plugged my iphone into the sound system and listened to Bob Kaufflin’s, ‘the lord is’. Ran through my sermon one more time. 7:56 John Yates called to encourage me and tell us TFC was praying for us today. Meant a lot.
A little after 8, Jon Crocker showed up with a wealth of sound equipment. We worked together to set up the wireless mics. And I took a crash course in how to record my sermon to a flash card. (I forgot to turn it on– human error and distracted preachers… the death of many a good plan). Around 8:20, the liturgical servants started arriving and putting name tags and welcome cards everywhere. 8:23 Patrick Ware arrives with more coffee and pastries. What a tangible source of support to us.
8:30– we gathered for prayer in the kitchen, about 20 of us. We prayed for joy, clarity, for our destiny as a church, for the kids, for people to feel welcome, for energy, for the worship team. After about 15 minutes, we split up and a flurry of activity got everything ready.
9:10– WELCOME TO RESTORATION!! Mary Breed is one of the most enthusiastic greeters I have ever met. She will be the voice, smile, and face that many people remember as their first impression of Restoration– and I’m thankful for that.
9:28– the sanctuary is PACKED. We turn up the sound system so that the loud singing doesn’t drown out the worship team. My last moment of panic, tried to hide it, ’cause here we go…
9:29 I stand up to welcome folks and I see 2 of my dearest friends and former students from Texas in the congregation. They had driven up from Charlottesville. I wasn’t expecting to see them. It totally chokes me up. I lose track of what I wanted to say in my welcome. It essentially becomes, ‘welcome to Restoration, here are some cards we want you to fill out, we have new books in the pews, read the bold print’ not the most inspiring. But God is good.
The service was wonderful. Our worship team had worked so hard to be ready and you could tell. The sound system worked without a glitch– so thankful for that. We had 88 adults and 33 kids! I asked all the kids how it was in children’s church and they RAVED about how much fun they had. We have an incredible team overseeing this. Readers, the prayers of the people, ushers, communion servers. It was everyone’s first time and it went so smoothly. As Laurel said repeatedly, ‘it did not feel ordinary, but it felt comfortable.’
I cried during my sermon– During the conclusion. Surprised I didn’t earlier. I am so moved by the idea of doing this for 30 years with these people. I am so excited about this being a journey that we are on for a long time. I am not a guest preacher. I am their pastor. In my conclusion I talked about being a community that is actively waiting together. There is something about belonging, being in partnership, being a team that gets to me. Consequently, I was pretty choked up for the end.
We are building into our service an after-sermon song. I like it. Gives some space to reflect, to respond, to worship. Gives me some transition moments.
The kids come back in to the sanctuary for the Eucharist. So fun to see them streaming down the aisles! I like their chatter and comments during the liturgy.
After the service, we had coffee and pastries at the Breeds. They live a short walk from the church. Almost everyone went from the church to their house. When I got there, the conversation was at a low roar. God totally answered our prayers for joy and energy.
So the questions will come– when do we go to 2 services? How will we have enough space to grow? God has taken such good care of us and provided all that we need. These answers will come as well. In the meantime lets be thankful for a great first day.
Laurel asked me late last night– was it more than you could have asked or imagined? I said, well you’d be surprised what I can imagine… But the answer is Yes. From music, to greeters, to parking lot helpers, to children’s ministry, to sermon, to communion, to hospitality, to facility, to new-comers, wow. God is good and able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine…