In my last blog post I wrote about a Sunday when the Holy Spirit touched the lives of every person in church at a more intense level than usual. Yesterday the Holy Spirit did it again…only this time it had more to do with service than feelings.
About two weeks ago, just after the government shutdown ended, I was part of a large group of faith community leaders who met with Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall. Originally the meeting was called to organize efforts to help families who were effected by the shutdown, but that being over she shifted the agenda to talk about how we might respond to needs in the county. One such need, she told us, was for books for children who didn’t have any.
All Ages Read Together, a nonprofit I have done pro bono consulting with, is a fabulous organization that provides pre-k reading programs to kids in communities where day care and other such programs either don’t exist or are too expensive for the families that live there. Randall told us that kids without pre-k start kindergarten some 20 months behind kids who had pre-k programs. And she said kids in these communities read with AART but when they go home there aren’t any books for them to read. There were no home libraries. She said they need books to take home and if AART had the books they would give them away to kids.
I piped up immediately “Christ Church will commit to donating 100 books.” Ms. Randall, though a little stunned said ‘great’. I felt good that we were first; I wanted her to see that we respond immediately when others are in need. I wanted her to see CCL as the first of the many that would donate books.’
I didn’t have to worry about being first…because I was the only person in the room that made a pledge. The only faith community on the line for books was CCL.
As a small parish some perhaps were concerned we could deliver that many books. Not me. There was absolutely no question in my mind we would exceed the goal and in fact, on the first Sunday we already had 200 books. I just knew that the combination of CCL folks and with our good friends reached through Ladies of Lucketts (who I also knew would respond) participating with us, this would be a snap. And I was right. By the time we delivered the books we had almost 600. (Last count according to Sr. Warden Susan Lee is we are well over 700; now our goal is the 900 kids that are served by the program getting at least one book from CCL.)
But this isn’t a story about books. It’s a story about love and responding to Jesus’ call to provide for those that are in need. And it’s a story of another Sunday at Christ Church when the Holy Spirit just took over the place and ‘owned us.’
As we were getting ready to process and the opening chords of the first hymn were played, who walked through the door but none other than Phyllis Randall.
Now I’m not going to get political here. I know Phyllis Randall only from the newspapers, like most of us. Yet here she was, in our church, to say thank you. That to me said a lot about her on its face. On the next Sunday after we delivered the books, Phyllis Randall told us ‘I knew where I had to be this Sunday.’
Her words, during our announcement period said even more. Here, truly, was a person grateful for Christ Church responding to the challenge, first of all, but even more importantly, as she said, ‘responding to Jesus.’ She said, “I am a politician and elected official and a public face; but first and foremost I am a Christian and this week Christ Church showed what that means to all of Loudoun County. Thank you Christ Church, you are amazing.” Truth is Ms. Randall had a little trouble finishing her talk to us; the Holy Spirit was at work in her too. Surely the Presence of the Lord was once again ‘in this place.’ And, as last time, when Pamela played ‘surely the presence’ all were emotional, including Phyllis Randall.
To say I’m proud to be part of this experiment we are in the middle of, this lay-led church experiment, is an understatement. I am more than proud, I feel blessed. Christ Church is what our Presiding Bishop calls a community that embodies ‘a way of love.’ We as a community are a way of love.
I think Jesus is proud of us. I think he sees in this little parish church in the little village of Lucketts, Virginia, a building full of people just trying to follow him, just trying to understand what it means to be a Christian. We spend little time debating big issues or politics or even religion. Rather than talk we act. Just as we did these last couple of weeks.
I think our friend Jesus looks at Christ Church and is pleased because all we exist for is to attempt to do what he called us to.
And I think we’re doing a pretty good job at it.
I love you all,