From the Pastor's Desk
Friends I see many signs of rebirth in our congregation. I see this church reclaiming the power it has always had to share with our neighbors “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” Some of you have told me that this power has been diminished in recent years, but in a number of different ways you are exercising that power again with confidence and joy.
It’s safe to tell the story now. In the early spring, our Open Doors Ministry Team enlisted two women from the community to visit our church as “secret shoppers.” Their assignment was to attend our worship service unannounced and evaluate everything they experienced.
They were asked to comment about directional signs inside the building, the lighting and temperature in the sanctuary, the music and the sermon, the worship bulletin, and so on. They made only one observation that could be even remotely interpreted as critical – and it wasn’t about the peeling paint on the exterior of the sanctuary which is such an embarrassment and concern to many of us.
Surprise, surprise – our two visitors noted that they had difficulty finding parking! That was it on the negative side; otherwise, their feedback was uniformly positive.
And what they kept emphasizing in their written evaluations was that this church feels like a family. Our members were obviously glad to see one another, like we were at a family reunion. But our two guests noted that they were welcomed with the same warmth and interest that you showed to your long-time friends. The family feeling came through above all in our sharing of joys and concerns, where people with physical and spiritual needs were identified by name.
The “secret shoppers” left the sanctuary that day with the impression that our church is much more than a loose-knit organization of individuals; it is a powerful community of faith. And they were right!
Friends, it’s time for others in our vicinity to experience that power first-hand. Two Sundays ago we flexed some of that power. For the first time in anyone’s memory, our church participated in the Woodbury Memorial Day parade. We had a flatbed trailer bedecked with signs bearing witness to some of the mission projects in which we are invested. And riding on that trailer were two dozen children and youth, smiling and waving to the crowds up and down Main Street. Of course, some of our adults also walked and rode in the parade, including one member who is in her 90’s. Now, stop and think about what we were communicating to our neighbors that day.
Many of the mainline Protestant churches in America are aging and declining. Outsiders might take one look at me and conclude that we fall into that category. But the composite picture bystanders to the parade saw that day was of a church that is alive and well and primed for a promising future, precisely because we are a church with a healthy cross section of ages – senior adults who offer wisdom, middle-aged adults who offer energy, young adults who offer idealism, and children and youth who offer enthusiasm. What the people of Woodbury saw that day was a church filled with vitality – vitality that can only come from an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor John Thomason