Yesterday my congregation did something new. Perhaps for the first time in the 138 year history of the church we chose to cancel morning Worship Services for reasons other than the weather or for seasonal considerations. Instead of coming along for gathered worship at the usual times we invited attenders to give some time in the morning and afternoon to serve the wider community with one another. There were a variety of serving options available … yard work, visiting an aged care home, picking up litter, writing encouragement letters to overseas missionaries, hospital visiting and hosting a barbeque for isolated and needy persons from our local area. Then we all came together in the late afternoon for a time of worship, where stories were shared and we experienced again the gracious service of God through Word and Sacrament.
So what did I see and what did I learn?
- I saw people of different generations joining together in giving to others. Seniors came alongside children and youth to give beyond themselves. Connections were built, relationships were deepened, and common memories were created.
- I saw whole families serving together. I saw fathers and mothers leading by example and modelling to their children what it means to give without condition and without expectation of reward.
- I saw people of our congregation enjoying themselves with one another and with those they served.
- I saw people recognising that sometimes little things can make a very big difference in the lives of others.
- I learnt that not everybody will choose to be involved, and that is OK. Our worship service attendance was about half of that on a “normal” Sunday but what we might have “lost” in attendance we more than gained in spiritual blessings for those who were involved. For one Sunday out of 52, it was more than worth it!
As I reflected on the day I wondered if we had been brought closer to what church should really be … people coming together in the name of Jesus to connect with each other and the wider community in real ways, and to reflect on the intersections between their life experiences and vocations and the call and workings of God through us and around us. I wondered what might happen if “Serving Sunday” became more than an once-a-year happening. I wondered if less focus needs to be given to the pastor’s message and more to the message that our people are proclaiming to one another and the wider community through works of collective discipleship. Yes, I wonder …