Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coming Down From the Mountain

Our church did something pretty neat this Sunday. They canceled our morning worship service and instead of gathering together, we all went out. There were five service projects in all:serving breakfast at a women's shelter, cleanup at a teen shelter, preparing a home for refugees who will arrive soon, clearing trash and excess growth from a forest preserve and finally, helping deliver a refrigerator to a woman in need.

You can guess which ones were most popular with the core members of the church: the people-oriented ones. So as part of the forest preserve team I actually had the unique opportunity of interacting with a large number of newcomers to our church. Say what you will about the lack of spiritual/relational value in clearing a forest - I loved the chance to get to know a few people with whom I'd had little previous opportunity to interact. Plus it was satisfying to see the huge difference three hours could make on a small tract of forest.

It was no surprise later at our celebration service in the evening to hear the emotional "mountain top" experiences of the people serving in direct contact with others. I was encouraged by these reports. But I'm also a bit jaded after over twenty years in this type of setting. I thought to myself as one weepy person after another shared their stories, "Sure, you feel this way today. But where will you be in another couple of months? Will you, like most other comfortable Americans, settle back into what you've always done?".

There were the determined speeches promising to do more, asking for others to commit too. All good and well, except that they were prompted by emotion, not wisdom. Even that evening as I spoke with other people about their experiences I learned the other side: some needs were too deep to be fixed with the band-aid approaches that the emotions were calling forth. And now the emails have started to fly, suggesting we add more jobs to our already over-taxed Sunday morning schedule, without taking the time to see what jobs can be dropped to accommodate them.

I'm just hoping these people who are moved by emotion to do more will take time to slow down and think more. That they will reason out steps that will work, not just the first thing they think of. I also hope as they come down off the mountain and return to the reality of people not having the time or energy they're asking for, that they don't lose faith - in God or people. We all want to do more. Some of us have no space for it right now. Some of us need to start smaller, with baby steps. And some of us are still listening to know what our part will be. I also hope they don't burn themselves out trying to do it all on their own.

My biggest desire? That more of what happened on Sunday does get incorporated into our church life. Maybe not on a weekly basis. But in a doable way that respects what we've already committed ourselves to, yet allows us to get outside ourselves and do more.

Forgive my ramblings. I'm still processing this whole deal. If you have thoughts, share them.

4 musings:

Llama Momma said...

I love your thoughts here. My first thought to the "who can help" email was similar to yours: what are we willing to drop from our church load in order to make space for this? Because everyone I know has a too-full plate already. Which isn't to say I don't value what is happening.

I would love to see our chuch move in this missional direction. We just may need to drop some of the churchy stuff in order to get there.

L.L. Barkat said...

I remember when one of our men's groups did a similar thing, going to fix up someone's house as their "meeting" for a night. I don't know that it had lasting impact (well, maybe for the house owner!), but I did think it was an interesting seed of an idea.

spaghettipie said...

I think that's a tough aspect of missions. I love the idea of canceling the normal service to help raise awareness. The rubber meets the road, though, when you have to figure out how to make missions a part of your life, your thinking, not just a program. Will be anxious to see what happens.

A Musing Mom said...

LM-it is so hard to see what could be dropped. I guess the coming weeks will tell.

LL-glad to hear of other people doing this kind of thing.

Spaghetti-I'll try to report back if significant things develop.