Four summers ago (which does not seem possible!), right before I began my seminary education at Duke, I worked at a small thriving rural church in Western North Carolina. It was a delightful summer for many reasons: it was one of the first times I could see myself independently and genuinely in the pastoral role, and I also ate a LOT of good food. (Southern Hospitality rings very true in North Carolina!)
One of my favorite parts about this internship was leading a small group in the local nursing home, just a mile away from the church. Each Wednesday, we’d meet in the dining room and discuss the Psalms. The faithful folks, most of them unable to attend regular worship on Sunday mornings, made sure to be present for their small group every Wednesday morning. We would study, learn together, and pray for one another. I learned so much from them! Even now, when I talk about the Psalms, I find notes in my Bible about the truths they taught me.
Beyond the individual descriptions of the Psalms, what I learned most from them was their faithfulness. They made sure to show up to be present with one another, even in struggles and joys. They were sure to check in with each other during the week and made sure to check in with me throughout my time there. I will never forget their faithfulness to each other, or to me. I still have a prayer shawl that community knit me at the end of the summer.
This presence and faithfulness are not reserved just for my small group in the nursing home. It has been a part of each church I’ve served, and it has edified me each time I’ve encountered it. It is why I love local church ministry. It takes dedication to show up to worship each week. It takes dedication and loyalty to be a part of small group study, learning from one another and praying for one another. You all change things when you show up to be together.
We know this as your worship leaders! We take seriously the task of planning and leading worship, knowing the importance of confessing our faith together, joining together in Christian community, and sharing the love of Christ with one another.
This week, we’ll talk about our commitment as United Methodists to be present. This means we commit to moving on towards that faithful loyalty, but also that we commit to being present with one another in the highs and lows of life. It means your church commits to being present when you are in the valley of the shadow of death, and in the best moments of your life. It means your church commits to having discipleship opportunities for you to engage in with your presence as you grow in your faith in our Triune God. It is a humbling task, to meet your faithfulness, to be present with the Spirit of God in this place.
I hope you’ll be present with us this Sunday morning, but also on Sunday afternoon as we join together at Lori Wilson Park at 4:30pm for our Beach Baptism service. Your presence and support of those getting baptized is essential to their growth in faith… and your own!
See you then,