Jeff’s reflections on our first Sunday at the new church…
Yesterday was our first Sunday at Pioneer Church. What a day! There wasn’t energy at the end of the long day to blog, so I’ll get to it now. Some of the highlights of the day…Morning worship blew us away. We were ready and looking forward to our ONE worship service (that made for a much less hectic morning than we were used to at
Pleasant Hill). While we prepared for a larger than normal crowd (we are well aware of the “freak show” intrigue of coming to see the new pastors…), we underestimated the excitement of this congregation — while worship attendance is normally around 200, we had 253 on Sunday morning! The parking lot was filled to capacity and the deacons were frantically photocopying more bulletins as we began the service. Talk about an energetic, enthusiastic, and responsive congregation!
Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 3:1-6 led me to preach about “thin places” — those places, times, experiences, etc. where the dividing line between God’s realm and the ordinary becomes very thin and we catch glimpses of the grace of God. Some of my own “thin places” that I shared about:
Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring”
Accompanying Tommy P. in his dying and death
Silent Night on Christmas Eve
Saturday morning at Pioneer Church – men’s breakfast, a dozen volunteers decorating the church for Christmas, lots of stories about favorite decorations and Christmases past at PMPC
In the manger in Bethlehem we experience the most profound “Thin Place” of all — the mysterious divide between heaven and earth was crossed completely. God entered our world and became one of us, demonstrating grace upon grace to all of God’s people.
Especially during this season of Advent we have the opportunity to be awake and alert to the “thin places” around us.
For me personally, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper later in the worship service was truly a “thin place.” In our last worship service at Pleasant Hill a month ago we celebrated communion. Kerri and I led the service and then served the broken bread to the congregation as they came forward to receive the elements by intinction. Needless to say, it was a poignant and tearful time with the people we love so dearly. What an amazing way to conclude our ministry there…
And so it was that we also began our ministry at Pioneer. We presided at the table, and then served the bread to the congregation as they came forward to receive the elements (again by intinction). It is always humbling to serve the Lord’s Supper and is often a “thin place,” but these two experiences were profound and essentially indescribable. It was truly a sacramental moment as we realized that this is our new congregation, a group of people we are already coming to love.
Following worship there was a reception to welcome us — I think we greeted all 250+ people that were there on Sunday morning!
So we crawled home, had a quick lunch, and then on to the afternoon activities. Kerri went to the Solon Historical Society’s open house. The museum is housed in the “original” church building of the Pioneer Church — a beautiful “Western Reserve” style building in the center of town. Several members of PMPC are cornerstones of the Historical Society, and they were very proud to show Kerri the facility and displays, and to introduce her to half of Solon.
While Kerri was doing the historical thing, I was working to get rid of some of the history in our new home. The guest room was obviously a boy’s room for the previous owners. Blue. Dark royal blue. With a sports-figure wallpaper border wrapped around the center of the walls. A hockey stick was used as the curtain rod. Cute, though somewhat “loud” if you’re not a 10-year-old boy. Most of our guests who will sleep in the room aren’t. So Saint Dave came over AGAIN to help me paint. He helped me transform the master bedroom from dark mauve (can you say “cave?”) to “Abingdon Putty” (basically the color of half my closet — khaki). That took two days. Now he’s back. And he’s doing all of the “cutting-in” with primer. I think it’s going to take 18 coats of primer to hide the blue. It’s REALLY blue. But Dave and I prepped the walls and painted our hearts out.
The day wasn’t over yet, though… Dave and his wife, Lauren (who was on the Pastor Nominating Committee), had us over to their place for dinner. Kim and her son Kyle also joined us. Kyle is one of Katie’s new boyfriends — he’s a junior in high school and clearly “her type” — he’s a boy! Lauren made this great dinner and we were having a ton of fun together.
And now check this out… Remember that Dave had spent the afternoon with me painting. He left our place 1.5 hours before the dinner party. As we sat down to dinner, I hear this familiar music playing. “Appalachian Spring.” Aaron Copeland. Remember the “thin place” I had described in my sermon earlier that day? Dave heard that, remembered it, and actually went to the local library after her left our place to find a CD recording. He found it — and played it for us as we ate dinner. Blown away. I can’t describe how amazing it felt to know that he and Lauren were tapping into this “thin place” and extending such friendship. And to top it all off, in addition to the trip to the library, Dave drove to Stow (a town about 45 minutes away) to get a couple of quarts of their favorite ice cream to send home with us. They had listened to our “favorite ice cream flavors” and found them at Handel’s. But the local Handel’s is closed for the winter, so he drove to Stow. For us. I am humbled by their amazing generosity and care.
Oh, and there’s more! Kim brought us one of her infamous apple pies!!!
Needless to say, we had an amazing day. Looking back on it, the whole day seemed to be a “thin place.” Glimpses of God’s grace in the celebrations, generosity, and new friendships… It was an amazing day.