Monday, July 10, 2006

Back from Vacation

It wasn't long enough! But it was a blessing for as long/short as it was.

I attended a choral reading session in Oklahoma City on Saturday, then stayed two nights so that I could get in some concentrated writing and composition. One of the things I needed to write is a sermon, the outline of which is at least complete now. It will be the first time in over four years that I have preached for a morning worship service (well, two, actually). More about that later, perhaps.

Sunday morning found me back at the church that hosted the reading session, Church of the Servant (United Methodist). It was a very good worship experience; I encountered God in a way I wasn't expecting. (That, to me, usually marks a good worship service!) The people I met at Church of the Servant took their welcoming and hospitality very, very seriously. It's not very often that I experience a greeting from nearly everyone I encounter at church...and I'm a staff member at my own church, where we're considered pretty friendly! It wasn't a case of vague smile and "hello" kind of half-greeting, either. People looked me in the eye, gave their names, asked for mine, and told me they were glad I was with them. And you have to understand something cultural: Though I'm not a born-Texan, I have lived here a long time. That makes me a visitor from Texas. And there is a "Red River Rivalry" that one ignores at one's peril. I had a "flying bird" signal from one Oklahoma driver on the trip. I was not impeding traffic, nor was I going too fast and crazy. As near as I can figure it, this guy was infuriated by a Texas license plate deep in Oklahoma territory. So, for Oklahoma church members to overcome their natural propensity to distrust Texans enough for me to feel genuinely welcome, well...let's just say that God was in our midst. Truly.

But that's not what surprised me about the worship experience. That, I haven't quite finished processing yet. When I do, I'll blog about it. Meanwhile, I've got a couple of new "8:30" songs written, text for a third started, a sermon outlined, and while on the drive, made a dent in my backlog of publishers' browsing CDs to see what's worth buying for "10:45" choir music.

All in all, as I said, I was blessed. I trust that by having enjoyed a change of pace, I will in turn be a blessing to those I work with.

Oh, and the furry residents of Chez Psalmist greeted, rather than snubbed me on my arrival home. Life is good.


revabi said...

Isn't it interesting how some churches do that hospitality thing well, the greeting, the welcoming.
And then there are those that will never change, and refuse to welcome anyone. Then there are those that are teachable and begin to change how they welcome people consistently, not just one time.

Psalmist said...

I suppose it doesn't hurt that Church of the Servant was a new church start in 1968 and their founding pastor has been the senior minister for all that time. I've heard that he deliberately wanted this church to be different, to reach out to people on the margins. The welcoming thing, I've heard, is directly attributable to his careful training all these years. He's also been able to pick outstanding staff members and has given lay leaders much more "permission" to dig in and do what needs doing than normally found in the 60's-80's.

I think *most* congregations are teachable about this, but one-size-fits-all training doesn't work. I think it's a matter of finding out what the congregation is most passionate about and start getting them to pass on their excitement about what the church is doing in that area. They'll welcome people to things they love...that is, *most* congregations. (smile)

Catherine + said...

Why is it I can never find your email when I need it!!!

Yes, regarding your comment on my are quite fiesty! Can I quote you? It is a MIGHTY fine quote! PLEASE!!!


Psalmist said...

Sure, Catherine! I had to stop and think for a moment what feisty thing I said. Quote all you like, and don't worry about attributing it. The thought wasn't original to me, though the turn of phrase was.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

When I first attended the church I'm still at, I wasn't used to the informality and changes from Sunday to Sunday. Then we visited a church where there was a real pro at the organ and the service was quite by the book, and the preacher preached great, but we were neither greeted or welcomed even though I made a point of shaking hands and saying that we were visiting to probably 6 different people, including the pastor. And then we put our daughter in the Sunday School for preschoolers so we could go to the adult class because they had a movie we wanted to see. No greeting from the SS teacher or the other adults in the class. And when our daughter left something in the church, I went back, talked to a couple of people right afterwards, to find the item, ditto on no greetings.

Sometimes you just have to learn from what you don't want to be.

That church probably never had visitors that returned so they didn't "get" it.