Sunday, July 4, 2010

Opening Worship at General Assembly

On my Facebook page I just shared my feelings about Opening worship this morning at General Assembly, “Terrific opening worship service at General Assembly--I'll remember it for a very long time. Praise God from whom all blessings flow ...”

I was one of many Communion servers and arrived at 7:30 a.m. at the Convention Center to receive my training. And even though I’ve administered Communion hundreds of times, I appreciated that we received training. I quickly learned that whoever planned and implemented this service was paying attention to details.

As soon as I entered the Convention Center I felt the spiritual energy. I saw many Presbyterians who I know and greeted them. We had a feeling of celebration from the start. I could feel a sense of anticipation—that something very special was going to happen. I felt like a greeting machine—dispensing “hi’s” and “how are yous” and “this is a very special day” to anyone I knew who came near me.

We Presbyterians are so good at identifying our own problems. It felt good to celebrate!

The opening of worship took my heart away. Fern Cloud, a commissioned lay pastor from Rapid City was dressed in traditional Native American apparel. She and Elona Street-Stewart shared the welcoming. Animals (humans dressed that way) and then large Native American figures walked by where I sat. I saw a bunny hopping and skunks skitter by. The processional was a story of creation with a midwestern accent.

I so appreciated a welcome from these Native Americans. It fit our history and context. It affirmed my recent thoughts opposing the English Only initiative that a Lino Lakes City council member has floated. If we truly want to go back to our native language, we should all learn Ojibwee. I don’t propose that, but we have to remember that we Caucasians brought English with us to this land. Now we Caucasians are called to welcome people who look and act differently than us.

Now former moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow knocked the sermon out of the park. Much of what he shared is what we are trying to create at Chain of Lakes Church. He shared the challenges of being Presbyterian mean we have to work together. He shared a beautiful story of a an elderly woman who became angry with him in a congregation he served because of how the flowers looked in the sanctuary. After her outburst, Bruce shared with her that he didn’t care about the flowers. That is the mistake we all make about people who disagree with us. We don’t care about them. We don’t care about them as people, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as children of God. We just don’t care enough. Bruce shared the Core Value of “Healthy Disagreement” that we’ve articulated at Chain of Lakes.

Bruce shared that he dreams of a church where we have more people in their 20’s than 30’s than 40’s than 50’s than 60’s than 70’s instead of vice versa, which we have now. Amen and preach it! His thoughts shared the Core Value of “Investing in Future Generations” we articulated at Chain of Lakes.

I watched the breathtaking baptism of Alexis Renee Sanders. Alexis is part of Kwanza Community Church. Watching Rev. Alika Galloway take Alexis in her arms was seeing an illustration of God’s clinging to us as humans. (The preceding thought came from Donna Christison from Community Presbyterian in Plainview. Donna shared this with me after worship.) I teared up when many of the Kwanza Community church, sitting near the stage rose to affirm that they would raise Alexis in the faith. This African-American congregation from North Minneapolis committed to instilling faith in this precious child. I very much appreciated the diversity in worship. We shared theological diversity—musicians from Westminster, Church of All Nations, and Christ Presbyterian in Edina—shared their gifts. I appreciated the different styles of music from classic hymns to contemporary Praise Band selections. Through our diversity we were united in our desire and passion to worship. These diverse styles complimented each other and didn’t tear at the fabric of our unity.

The power of worship will fade, but the principles lived out give us as Presbyterians hope in which to grasp as we face an unsettling future.

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