The sanctuary waits.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I walked into the sanctuary with a couple of helpers, our box of pew moving supplies, and a scale model of the sanctuary. Some of you have seen this tool – a cookie sheet with movable pew shaped magnets – because I love to show it off (church nerd alert!). Moving pews is hard work and this model allows us to try out designs to make sure they will work before we put our bodies into it. Those behemoth benches are not made to be easily shifted! Once they are in place, however, they can transform our experience of worship. They literally create a new shape, for a new season.
As we lifted, pushed and tweaked each pew into place, getting more sore and tired with each moment, we also pictured the beloved people who would populate the seats and the emerging shape of our gatherings. We centered the Advent wreath, with the candles we will light together again, and gazed into the waters of the font. We made room for the communion table and said a word of hope, that we might share the holy meal there again soon. It was a labor of love and an exercise in remembering and re-imagining.
In this season of Advent, I am feeling especially expectant! While we’ve grown more comfortable COVID protocols and their effectiveness, staff have noticed a readiness to add features to our in-person worship. Starting Sunday, December 5th, we will begin to offer Children’s Time (with the creche!), Children’s Bulletins and Fellowship Time in the lounge after worship. The livestream and online bulletin will continue to be available. We trust you will make decisions about how to participate that are best for you and your family, and that God will meet you wherever you dwell.
Advent is a season when we practice expectant waiting for the Christ child and watching for signs of God among us. It is a time when we honor that God’s promises unfold in God’s time. And we honor the reality the wait can be a hard. We sit with our longings and in a word that is not yet as it should be. Family may feel more disconnected. Presents might not make it in time to go under the tree. Food may be harder to afford. We may struggle with when and whether to join gatherings in-person and how much risk to accept. It may even feel like we aren’t ready at all, or aren’t faithful enough, to welcome Christmas and God among us.
Perhaps instead we can let God welcome us into a time of holy waiting and becoming. The problems don’t all need to be solved. We don’t need to put all the pieces back together. In Advent, we remember that God is host of the unfolding kingdom. We only need to watch, wait and witness. God calls us back to ourselves and each other in Word, song and prayer. God’s promises are ever present. Receive a breath of hope into your body. Embrace the expression of love from a friend. Dwell in a moment of peace among the raindrops. Revel in a spark of joy and bubble up of laughter!
I think most of us now know that there will not be a singular day when we return to church or society as we knew it. The church and society continue to be simultaneously gathered and dispersed, as it has been throughout time. So, welcome back! Welcome to the beautiful, holy chaos of God’s people being transformed for the world. You are a precious member of this Body of Christ and I can’t wait to see you, and wait and watch with you. There is so much to behold as we light one candle to watch for Messiah.
Your sister in Christ,