When is the last time you have found yourself among new people in a new faith community having a new experience of faith? As someone who does church professionally, I find that too often I fail to expand my horizons when it comes to worship. To be honest, I miss having the opportunity to change my perspective and be in the pew as a participant in worship instead of a leader. I miss that because on the occasions when I do step out of the pulpit, I find that I discover God in a whole new way.
The most profound experience I have had in a new context of worship actually happened before I fully answered my call to ministry. I was a senior in college on a mission trip to Mozambique, Africa. It was my first time to leave the United States, and I was totally out of my element. Everything around me was different. The geography was different
(and beautiful). The sounds in my environment were different. The smells were different. Even the languages used were different!
Yet, in the midst of so much difference, I had two opportunities to worship at United Methodist Churches during the two weeks I was in Mozambique. Both times, I found in the midst of a very unfamiliar setting, the most familiar God. The first time was during a Vacation Bible School presentation of the story of Moses' birth. I understood not a word of the drama that was unfolding, but the simple act of placing the baby doll in the basket and floating him across the water was so familiar - not to mention the pride and excitement on the face of the children! The second time occurred in a temporary structure in the center of a rural village. The sanctuary looked nothing like any sanctuary in which I had ever worshiped. The roof, for the small part that was covered, was made of branches woven together. The chairs, or at least the few available, were plastic. But there, in the midst of an unfamiliar sanctuary, I again found the familiarity of God as all of our voices joined in a familiar tune from the UM hymnal. Though some of us sang in English, others in their tribal languages, and others in Portuguese, all of our voices were united by a familiar tune and by the power of the Spirit. In those experiences of worship, God gave to me a Pentecost moment that broadened my understanding of the mission of the Church and the call of all people.
On June 3
, you will have an opportunity to join in worship in a very familiar place, the sanctuary of Grace UMC. However, in this place of familiarity you will be invited to experience the worship of God in a new way as we are led by choirs from different cultures and different denominations. This event,
Boundless Spirit: A Pentecost Festival of Story and Song
, is an opportunity to open ourselves to the diverse work of God in our world as we share in the ways God's Spirit is at work. It is my prayer that our full congregation will be present for this event, and that you extend the invitation to others. This Sunday, in our bulletin, we give to you a card with information about the event to use as a reminder, and to share as an invitation. I hope you will make plans to be at
Grace UMC, Saturday, June 3rd at 5:00 PM
to experience how the Spirit comes alive in a new way, in this familiar place.