Thursday, April 28, 2011

Getting involved…

Gretchen recently gave me an interesting opportunity. As you may know, she’s a big DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) supporter, and among other civic activities, DAR offers scholarships to graduating high schoolers. One of those awards is given to someone with demonstrated passion for and intent to pursue the study of history, and apparently, Gretchen chairs the selection committee. So needing a couple folk besides herself to review applications, she told me of the project and said, “Shane, you love history.” (It’s true…I’m currently halfway through an 800-page tome on American history, 1789-1815, as well as 98 episodes into a history of Rome podcast) “Will you help us out?” I said, “Absolutely! It’d be an honor.”

So she gave me a stack of applications, and one thing that jumped out was how involved these gifted young women and men were. Yes, they’d written wonderful essays on history. As you’d expect from a merit scholarship, they had fantastic grades. But each applicant also included details about extra-curricular activities at school and in the community. And, oh my good morning, these students were b-u-s-y! Eagle scouts, athletes, amateur archeologists; volunteer hospital assistants, tutors, world peace awareness raisers. I knew collegiate competition has been rising, but didn’t realize how involved that led some students to become. I thought I did lots of stuff in high school. Compared with these youth, I was minor league…at best. Please take a moment of silence, in solidarity with their frenzied parents (taxi drivers).

Lest you think I’m complaining, however, I love how involved these students are. Sure, in some instances, it seemed over-the-top; maybe a little resume padding was going on. But mostly, I think it’s great when people- young, old or otherwise- get involved in life. Too often, it’s easy to surround ourselves with what makes us comfortable- at home, in church, etc.- and not challenge ourselves to make a greater difference, learn a new skill, build relationships with folk we’d probably never meet otherwise. I’m guilty of that sometimes; most of us are. These young folk, however, were definitely not! Rather than see the world as filled only with heartbreak and pain, and so to be guarded against at all times, they apparently saw opportunities for growth and pitching in. We should all be so bold.

All of that is a loooong way of introducing something new happening at church. For just as these students inspire me to get more involved in God’s good world, so too has someone inspired me recently to get more involved in…worship. After our quiet, simple, reflective Ash Wednesday service, someone commented, “I loved it. Even though we ‘did less’ than normal, I prayed more; I felt more involved.” This led us to talk about whether, during our normal Sunday services, we’re giving ourselves enough opportunities to connect prayerfully, reflectively, deeply with God. Do we open enough space for people to get involved in the Spirit?

I don’t know that answer, entirely. For some, like me, getting involved in the Spirit can mean more upbeat, louder music. So if you’ll notice, we’ve been recently experimenting with contemporary Praise music, alongside our typical fare. This may help younger folk- or anyone who finds energetic praise helpful to experiencing God’s love and power- see our church as welcoming to them. We’re also moving around different parts of the service (sermon, choir, Table…), trying to create and maximize reflective moments. This may help folk who enjoy quiet and calm better ponder God’s goodness and mull over the scripture, sermon, etc. I hope you’ll let me, the Servant Leaders, the Pastoral Relations or Worship Teams know what you think about these experiments. Your feedback always helps as we together seek to become a beacon for Christian openness and service in our community.

And especially, I pray you’ll make a point of getting more involved- in our worship, church life, your community, family, serving the poor. For Jesus said, in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, life abundant.” And during this post-Easter week, just days removed from honoring Christ’s entrance into resurrected living, we’re all aware that abundant life has never been more possible!

Grace and Peace,

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