What in God’s name is going on here?

Garrison Keillor begins the story segment of Prairie Home Companion (one of my favorite programs) with that familiar phrase “Well, it has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.”  Thinking about it – August has been anything but a quiet month in Jeffersonville.  We have had the Blessing of Backpacks, the closing celebration of our 175th Anniversary year including the installation and dedication of  a memorial stained glass skylight and a benefit concert for the community to raise funds for the Blessings in a Backpack program at a local school. And in a pattern unheard of in my 40+ years of parish ministry the attendance has been increasing all summer.  Oh yes, and the parish has been offered a free pipe organ to move and install in our facility. And we are doing the fact finding on how much this would cost and can we afford to do it in terms of funds and energy?  The Christian Formation group has put out a questionnaire about possible emphases for the fall and spring and initial responses indicate there is energy and enthusiasm around them.

All of this causes me to ask “what in God’s name is going on here?” This is a very different parish from the one that so warmly welcomed us last year.  The difference is one of confidence, excitement and potential. Our people have worked hard and well to begin to build on what is working; to put the past into a context and to live into a future they as a congregation are choosing for themselves rather than having something imposed on them. The spirit is different – as the Spirit has begun to work within and among.

We cannot be credited for doing anything extraordinary. What we are doing is discovering who they are and giving them permission to be who and what God has called them to be. We want to offer them encouragement and leadership to help them get to the future they identify. We recall that wonderful quote from Ghandi “There go my people, I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

That initial question (which most of us probably hear in our mind with a tint of tension and judgement) “What in God’s name is going on here?” is a proper question to ask.  Part of what any faith community needs to do is to identify what are the areas where we can sign on to God’s project to re-create the world as God would have it and to joyfully pursue that in God’s name.

A year ago today we were moving furniture off the truck.  Today we are celebrating the achievements of these good and generous people of God as they work with one another and with us to discern a future and assemble the resources to live into it. It has been a GOOD year that keeps getting better as we keep asking “What in God’s is going on here?”

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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