Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide

It was a weekend away, with family, 
for a variety of good reasons:
a concert for grandson #2,
a final Little League game for grandson #5,
and a visit with my mom.
So we stayed an extra night and got up and
went to church with daughter #2 and her family.

This shot taken about 10 minutes before worship began, as folks were wandering in.
Their mid-sized, 1950's style A-frame sanctuary
was transformed for Eastertide -
lovely, white, semi-sheer fabric, 
yards and yards of it,
draping gracefully from the altar to the back entrance.
And inviting.
A grand entrance into worship.

The young senior pastor gave up his pulpit this visit
and invited a congregant to preach.
She is a clinical psychologist who is also
an ordained Presbyterian pastor.
He had done a similar thing the last time we were there -
that week spotlighting a talented pastoral intern,
who also happened to be a woman.
He is exceptionally generous and gracious,
and genuinely delights in sharing the preaching task.

He did sit down with the kids for the children's sermon,
and this week, he led in the prayers of the people.
(The shining golden-haired cherub on the top step, left,
is grandson #6 - our last grandboy,
 and such a joyful soul.)

It was a good morning, a solid sermon and a nice blend 
of old hymns and contemporary songs.
We particularly enjoy the 'joys and concerns' time 
which comes after the sermon each week.
This shot was taken right after the service, when I could more easily
whip out the camera.
We've seen several different staff and lay people 
lead this time of community sharing 
and are moved by it every time.
People here know each other.
They care about what's happening in one another's lives.
They offer requests for intercession,
or expressions of joyful praise,
and we all respond to each one.
The leader summarizes each moment of sharing, 
closing with, "In your mercy, Lord..."
and the congregation responds with,
"...hear our prayer."
There is no sense of hurry,
every person who stands or raises a hand 
is acknowledged,
and then the leader closes this time 
with a pastoral prayer -
for the congregation,
the larger community,
the world.
Placing this time after the sermon 
adds weight and resonance to the prayers of the people.
It provides a nice balance to the preached word 
and the lovely variety of musical offerings.
We are deeply grateful for this part 
of the family of God
and the wonderful ways 
in which they have embraced our kids.
And whenever we worship here,
we are welcomed,
and encouraged.