Conventional wisdom has it that parish Annual Meetings are like magnets – at one extreme they are repellingly dull; at the other pole they can be all too attractive for conflict and crazy, acting out behavior. I know there is evidence that both can be true.
But yesterday, we asked people to bring stories of their ministries back to the group. We asked a mix of old and new members to take turns in leadership roles. The current lay and ordained leaders reflected on the past year in terms of goals we set for ourselves and what we did, learned and prayed along the way. We talked about what we did when we met the unexpected. We remembered our dead, and acknowledged the gifts and the gaps they leave us. People talked faithfully about hopes for the future. We discussed uncertainty as an inherent part of looking into the future.
It took two hours. That may seem long. In the moment however, and even now, I see it as a parade, a parade of blessings from God and one another, streaming past to be seen, heard and felt. Honestly, it makes me want to march.
It was not all excitement, novelty and finely honed speeches of course. If the ministry reports were written rather than spoken, we might have edited and shortened a few to make them more concise, more efficient. If we had, I suspect much of the wonder, much of the joy, might have been edited out, left on the cutting room floor.
For me, it was these first person accounts of faith and service that gave the time meaning – the We and the I finding our best selves by being for You, for the Other, for God.
These personal narratives are faith witnesses. They came from people who might insist they have neither the faith nor the words to stand up and give a faith witness. But there we were. It took two hours to hear all those stories, to see all these witnesses to our life in Christ, for the parade to pass.
In the Gospel passage that morning, Jesus said that he has come to free the captives and let the blind see. Many of us would think nothing of watching a movie for two hours – or reading a book or surfing the internet. We might even go to an old fashioned parade when we get the chance. Yesterday we saw, and heard and felt, a parade of blessings.
There is a hymn that says, “We are marching in the light of God.” We are marching in the light of God. Hear the music, feel the beat. And know that sometimes, we can see the Kingdom.
hymn – “Marching in the Light of God“