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Archive for January 18th, 2018

A few years ago our church embarked on the daunting and yet exciting task of planning for the future. “Write the Vision” was a journey of intentional conversations about God’s dreams for the future and how our congregation could be a part of it. It was a tough task, one that took a great deal of time and commitment from our members. What makes our church special though is that we are not afraid of taking on tough and challenging tasks. Each month, our meeting room was filled with people who cared about the future of the church. Out of those meetings, we shared dreams and developed plans, and we have already begun making changes so that those plans become reality. It’s been an exciting time to see the work we did come to life!

One of the most important lessons I learned from the vision process was not in the published finding, but was what I learned on our journey together. Each time we met, we gathered around tables and were encouraged (sometimes forced!) to sit with different people. At the very first meeting, my husband and I sat at a table with Caroline and Charlie.

Sitting with an older couple was unusual for us. As parents of young children who are still learning their table manners, we usually pick tables towards the back of the church’s fellowship hall. We typically find other families to sit with who are not bothered by the constant words of instruction: ”Sit in your chair.” “Don’t talk with your mouth full” “No dessert until you eat your veggies.” Our fear of aggravating other church members and interrupting their meal has kept us and our rowdy boys at what we thought would be “child-friendly” tables.

But at that first meeting, Caroline and Charlie welcomed us to their table. Truth be told, until that day, I did not even know their names. I am sure we had met before, but I couldn’t remember who they were. So we started with introductions. Over our shared meal, we learned about Caroline and Charlie’s family. We heard some of their stories. We learned that Charlie had played football at Florida State (Go Noles!) back before Burt Reynolds had been on the team. They told us about how they met. They shared stories about their wedding. They bragged on their children and grandchildren. They talked about how much they love our church. During that first meal, we also made the connection: their son-in-law was our son’s Sunday School teacher. Getting to know Caroline and Charlie, their family, and their love for our church was one of the highlights for me of our church’s visioning process. I’m so glad they welcomed us to their table.

One of my favorite hymns right now is “For Everyone Born.” I love this verse in particular:

For young and for old, a place at the table,
a voice to be heard, a part in the song,
the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old, the right to belong,
and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!

Charlie passed away recently, and my heart has hurt for Caroline and their family. Charlie will be greatly missed by our church family and by my family. I am so thankful for his friendship and for the way in which he pulled up a chair and welcomed others else to the table.

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