I have never been so grateful for church kitchen “conductors,” than I was yesterday at Street Church.
In my experience of ministry, I have never been the person who thrived in orchestrating the food ministries of the church. Shoot, I rarely orchestrate the food in my own kitchen, let alone coordinating a large meal serving enterprise. As far as ministry, I have been rooted in preaching, teaching, worship, and equipping the saints for the ministry.
This past week I had several of our neighbors ask me, “are we going to have a Labor Day picnic on Sunday?” My original intention was to create a co-sponsored event with another church, however, the other church’s availability fell through and we decided to postpone for another time. Nevertheless, our people remembered the promise of a holiday picnic and they were excited about the idea. Even our beloved Edwin, our former Furniture Bank manager, dropped off a used grill (unexpectedly) that he found from a friend and said, “here, it’s for our picnic that we’re having next week.”
The church had spoken: we were hosting a picnic!
In the ministry of the Church, it is usually not the pastor who is planning and conducting events like these. For good reason, too. It is supposed to be empowered by beautiful lay people who have been equipped to serve and lead the ministry planning process (and do it much better, to boot!). We have been blessed to have many churches and small groups who come alongside us and help us serve at Street Church and Dinner Church for our meals. They have been teaching us what it takes to put on a good breakfast for 45-50 people and how much work it takes to purchase, cook, serve, and clean up. We couldn’t do it without them!
In our ministry, our people have often relied on the churches to host events like these, but at Street Church we are encouraging them to also think about what it means to be the one’s serving alongside each other. This week, our people learned a valuable lesson on what it takes to put on a good event.
As the week began, I delegated the coordination of food options to our neighbor Sue Morley, who has been really stepping up lately in the kitchen baking and cooking for almost every event we have been having; and Rev. Carole DuBois who has been a wonderful partner in ministry with our people. Together, they purchased the food and coordinated who would bring what sides. Bear and Marcy both volunteered to bring potato salad (no worries-you can never have too much potato salad!), and some desserts which were baked by our neighbors were brought too. All was pre-set for the picnic and I knew it was going to be a great afternoon with one another.
The event had…its hiccups. But, overall it was a smooth afternoon full of reflections on what church really looks like. I have written many times about what “success” means in this work. It is not the same as what I was groomed to believe. I constantly have to reprogram my brain and remind myself that things don’t have to be “perfect” to be a “success.” So here are some of my takeaways from our event:
Was yesterday’s picnic a success? Yes.
Did we forget to preheat the “wood-smoke” grill which needed an hour to heat? Yes.
Was the food (eventually) delicious? Yes (so I was told!)
Were people in our community served a fun lunch and have time to just “be” with one another? Yes.
Will we learn to coordinate roles and responsibilities better next time? Yes.
The most beautiful observation around the whole event was our opportunity to just “be” and play some music together.
We got to welcome Dr. Chris Ryder, choir professor and Director of Music at Fredericksburg Baptist Church, and three of his students from the University of Mary Washington who are taking his social justice music course. They are going to be helping (re)start a community Street Choir with our people for a class that Chris is teaching this semester on Sunday afternoons. They held an information session on Sunday and we are excited to get started next week.
We are inviting our neighbors and all of our partner community members to come be a part of this music ministry on Sundays at 12:30 PM at the Street Church site (1915 Charles St.) to sing and have a time of fellowship together each Sunday.
Music truly is the healer of all things.
While the hiccups of the event could have overtaken the whole mood, I was comforted by the soothing sound of two different neighbors who randomly started played original pieces and music with a harmonica while we sat and waited to eat together. It was a beautiful prelude that reminded me that things don’t have to operate at the efficiency level of a Chick-fil-A drive thru to be done well.
It reminded me to stop and enjoy the music. Not to mention, slow down enough to enjoy the beautiful dahlias growing on the property which are in full bloom after the tending done to them this summer by our neighbors and Mike Cotter.
In our scripture reading we focused on the Gospel of Mark and the Syrophoenician woman from Tyre who retorted back to Jesus that she would gladly accept the “crumbs” of his Grace rather than none at all.
Her faith in accepting the little things reminded me, as we savored Holy Communion together (our new 1st Sunday practice) that God’s grace shows up even in the crumbs left behind.
God’s grace is always real and present, in moments big and small.
As I was cleaning up the crumbs from our meal together at the end of picnic, I took time to reflect on the markers of God’s grace left behind on the table even in the imperfections from our community’s time together.
I remembered that God’s Grace showed up even in the moments when I felt impatient. Rather than taking over, I took a back seat and let the moment play out. I encouraged our people to be a part of the serving and logistics team. Instead of complaining, I invited them to be a help now, and be a part of the process to build a better system, next time.
It occurred to me that some of them did not know what “taking initiative” meant, and we will work on that in the future as they feel more empowered to serve. It takes baby steps and our people (and I) were able to learn some things about planning and hosting an event that we will take with us as we continue to build this little church. These were all examples of God’s Grace present in the crumbs left behind.
Our motto of Street Church is Gather-Sow-Grow.
We want this to be a place where neighbors gather together and find a new “home” in Christ.
We seek to hear the seeds of faith sown in us, as the master weaver brings us together to learn and grow as One Body in Christ.
Street Church is finding its way, and this new Pastor is remembering how grateful I am for all the saints of ministry, the ones who have come before us, and the ones who are budding right now.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Would you pray with me? Gracious God who reminds us to see your Grace in the imperfections and even in the crumbs left behind, help us to savor each moment we have to learn and grow with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you for the ways that we are finding you in the small things that we have taken for granted and help us to find a new way, in and through you. In the holy and redemptive name of Jesus, Amen.