Hello, parishioners – I hope you are having a great summer and staying cool. When I last contributed to the Christ Church Gatherings article, I wrote about my excitement about starting a new ministry at Vantage Point, a senior-living community in Columbia. After my mother moved in there a couple of months ago, I was asked to restart a Protestant Worship Service at 2:00 on Sundays. Prior to Covid, they had a weekly service with priests from multiple denominations who would lead services.
In preparation for our first worship service on June 25th, I collaborated with Father Manny and Deacon Denise to develop a service based on the Holy Communion Under Special Circumstances, a liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. I worked with a Vantage Point community member, Ruth Bell, to develop our plans for the service and how to best spread the word within the complex. The staff at Vantage Point were great at providing the resources we needed. And, our Christ Church community stepped up, as always! The Altar Guild provided extra effort to prepare pre-consecrated elements for our communion. As I look back and think about how the idea of worship grew into reality, I am aware of the constant; presence of the Holy Spirit. In each encounter, as we lived into our dream of creating a Christ-centered community at Vantage Point, the feeling of love and knowing we were being the hands and feet of Christ was empowering.
A particular encounter that exemplifies the Spirit at work was when I reached out to Sam Jackson to see if he would be willing to play music periodically at services (full disclosure: Sam was volunteered by Preethi when I mentioned the new service to her – thanks Preethi!). For those of you that do not know Sam, he often plays guitar at the 10:30 service. Sam was immediately receptive, and I asked if we could get together to practice a couple of songs. I had no doubt that Sam could step in and play great; however, I was nervous.
We did not know how many people might attend our first service - we hoped for five to ten. Not knowing what to expect, and not trusting my ability to lead the singing of hymns in a small group, I felt like one thing I could do to have some control was to practice the hymns with Sam. He invited me over to rehearse, and my soul was further settled when Preethi joined us and agreed to sing at the service. What a blessing! Having Preethi and Sam at my side as we embarked on this journey was incredible. In hindsight, I think I was channeling my overall nervousness of starting a ministry for the first time into my jitters about being able to hold the tune in case no one else sang.
Prior to the two o’clock start, Sam played peacefully as we made our final preparations and welcomed residents to the service. Twenty-eight loving souls showed up for worship! The Spirit was stirring as we enjoyed singing, praying, and communion together. Afterwards, many enjoyed refreshments and fellowship and many of us expressed our joy at being together in the name of Christ. We planted a seed and it was beginning to sprout.
Today, as I look back on our first month of services, I see how the Spirit was at work providing the connections we needed to continue to grow our new ministry. My childhood piano teacher, who has been playing the organ at the church of my youth for thirty-five years, is in the rotation of musicians and played during our third service. When we needed a musician for the fourth week, CEC parishioner Judith Gaffer and I found ourselves in conversation after the service at CEC two weeks ago. She mentioned she wanted to hustle upstairs to see the guest organist who was also in the Guild. “Wait, what? There’s a Guild? And you are in it?” I thought. I would learn Judith had her first church organist gig in 1961. She played for us joyfully at Vantage Point this past Sunday. We are blessed to have such an amazing group of musicians to support our ministry. Additionally, the service at Vantage Point will be led by a priest from a local Methodist Church this coming Sunday. She was invited by Ruth to join us in worship last Sunday and agreed to be in the rotation of worship leaders.
God continues to provide.
Our new ministry is off to an amazing start! In the coming weeks, Father Manny and Deacon Denise will lead worship and we hope to add clergy from other local churches to the service schedule. Anyone from CEC who feels called to offer their gifts of music, delivering the homily, or anything else you can think of, please let me know. I am so grateful for the unending support from the CEC community. The seeds of our faith are growing and the Spirit is at work. Thanks be to God!