It's hard to watch the Olympics when there's no television in the house. But I hear that the Olympic stars are amazing. And just because they made it there, this far, they are incredible examples of human spirit and achievement. In the Olympic Games, we celebrate the best in sports, and we marvel at their accomplishments. We marvel at how these individuals are able to transform their bodies into instruments of both strength and beauty. I can never do those things, we say.
But this past week at Calvary, another transformation is taking place, no less marvelous. While the world oohs and aahs at the feats of gymnasts, divers, swimmers, runners and other superior athletes, I have witnessed the everyday, but still marvelous, achievements of the members of the parish family. The Olympics pushes individuals to the limits of the human body. But the people of Calvary are showing to me the possibilities of the Body of Christ, working together to make their church more beautiful, more inviting, and more enticing to all people than ever before.
Before you even open the doors to the church, look at the doors. Last week, Randy McKnight picked out the perfect red for the doors and painted them all. As I left the church on Tuesday, he was painstakingly painting around the ornate latches and hinges using a tiny paintbrush, just to make it perfect.
Last Sunday, a group of hardy parishioners took out their tools and garden gloves got to work, trimming the trees and shrubs, clearing invasive vines and weeds, and tidying the grounds. It was a labor of love that, I'm sure, was evident to anyone driving or walking past the church, because you can just feel the spirit and cheerfulness and camaraderie as our determined workers pulled weeds, chatted and joked while listening to Beatles music.
This week, Janet Keller and another hardy crew has transformed Hannaford Hall into a Habitat for Humanity-themed Vacation Bible School. The children will learn how to use building tools, and will also learn how to build the best spiritual foundation for their hearts. With the foundation of the Word of God, they will learn how to build a spiritual house made of love, and then learn how the power of love is expressed in action-say, by building a house for other people who don't have any place to live.
Putting these lessons into action, Troy Romantini is soliciting volunteers to help build two houses in Price Hill for Habitat for Humanity. Two families are already committed to help build their own place, and Habitat is hoping that they will be ready to move into their new home by Thanksgiving. Calvary has a great reputation for its long-time Olympic-worthy involvement with Habitat, and I am seeing it this summer.
One joke among Episcopalians says that "Episcopalians are the only people God trusts enough to take the summer off from church." This past month, Calvary has steadfastly refused to take a vacation. Last month, a group took a sumptuous meal to Tender Mercies in Over-the-Rhine, which provides housing and individualized supportive services to homeless persons with histories of mental illness. Last week, another group went to Christ Church Cathedral to bring supper, support, and friendship to homeless families on behalf of Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN).
All of these everyday achievements by the people of Calvary impress me far more than the Olympic Games. Your living and working commitment to the church produces something bigger and even more enduring than the Olympics. You are nurturing a living Church and opening a window to the Kingdom of God.
From my perspective, this summer has been a time of observing, learning about the church, and making a few small but visible changes, like improving the worship bulletins and providing name tags (thanks to Nick Snow!) so I don't call everybody "Dennis." As we move into the more substantive transition period this fall, there will be more things happening, like congregational meetings where you can make your voice heard regarding what you want in your church, and adult formation classes, and youth ministry.
But the most important work of the interim time will be the empowerment and recognition of lay ministry and lay leadership. Because it is the people who are the Church, not the clergy. Your dedication and love for the church-the Body of Christ-and your desire to live what you believe, are more inspiring to me than any Olympic Games.