Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Real Church

The last Sundays in August are usually pretty quiet affairs. Folks are heading out from or returning from vacation travel. Students are leaving for colleges (and here in Santa Barbara, returning to Westmont up the hill). There are very few August committee meetings. What fills our calendars here are weddings; just about every weekend and sometimes two a weekend, like this past Saturday and Sunday.
At Montecito Covenant, we even scaled back our normal 2 service schedule to 1 over the summer, meaning I am preaching one time for the first time in about 15 years! That is a relaxed summer routine, to begin worship at 10:00 am and be done and on the way to a picnic by noon.
This past Sunday's lectionary text I preached on was Ephesians 5:15-20, focussing in on "Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs." So we really tried to weave together a medley of old and new hymns and songs to reinforce the preached word. There is probably no better opening hymn for worship than "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." The congregation got into it right away, singing in parts with full voice. All that was missing was Cindy Reents on the grand Salem pipe organ. But our worship was sweet and real. It was one of those powerful moments where I just had to sing with my eyes closed, not theatrically, but to keep me from being distracted and simply praise God.
That's when I felt the movement of air as our Associate pastor Diana walked in front of me to a couple in the front pews just to our left. When I looked over, he was tipping into his wife and others were gathering around him to hold him up. He is a retired professor from Westmont, easily in his 80's, errudite and gracious. He did not faint, but was loosing consciousness. The church secretary, ever aware, walked out to call 911 and I walked over to see this gentleman, now seated and leaaning against his wife's shoulder. I prayed for him and told them help was on the way.
After our second chorus, I stopped the singing and quietly told the congregation that one of our members was experiencing a medical situation and we had called 911, so not to be disturbed when the Emergency Crew arrived. We kept standing as the Emergency Crew came in the side door and carefully stabilized and helped our member in crisis out the door into a waiting ambulance. The Associate pastor and her husband left worship to accompany the man's wife and spent most fo the day in the ER as he was evaluated for a stroke. Another worshiper drove the wife in their car to the hospital.
We then stopped singing and spent time in immediate prayer for our friend in crisis. What then happened was that worship intensified. It is about life and death and where our hope is or isn't. There was a pronounced fervency in the singing, some leaving the church too moved to even speak.
Our member is still in the hospital in critical care. But the wake-up call for us in worship las Sunday was that it is not about customer satisfaction and whether the power-point went right or I liked or did not like a particular song. Our church, with the spectrum of ages from newborn to 95 year olds is a wonderful reminder to me of the Real Church, with broad arms, not a niche market of special interest.


At 4:52 PM , Anonymous BeckyR said...

We had some time like that in supporting a person in our church as she fought non-hodgkins cancer for 7 yrs, recurrence after recurrence. Everything is intensified when you don't know how much time you have with a loved one. And we all loved her. And from that, how we love each other. Then those last months as we supported her as she died. It was an honor. It did wonders for our church - cutting down the BS and getting down to things that are important.

At 2:26 PM , Blogger Kerry Doyal said...

the Real Church, with broad arms, not a niche market of special interest



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