One of the things I love about Facebook is the parade of “first day of classes” photos – from the littlest children to the grown adults – the celebration of the first day is something special.
Similarly, I love the parade of Ingathering photos from our congregations – showing off the decorated tables and the joyful connections between people as they mark the first Sunday of the congregational year.
I don’t often get to participate in those Ingathering photo parades – my work rarely sends me to a congregation on Ingathering Sunday. So when I get to lead an Ingathering, it’s something quite special – and yes, it’s a sure bet I’ll be taking and posting photos.
This Ingathering, of course, is different for many of us. For some of you, this is the first time you’ve been to an Ingathering at CUUC that isn’t led by Rev. Meredith. For others, this transition has happened before, and it’s always been a bit different, because the first one from a new minister is often the first time they are in your pulpit, so there’s a fair bit of curiosity.
Now for many of you, this is not the first time I’ve led worship at CUUC – whether you have experienced me only as a guest or as your sabbatical minister, you have a sense of me and my style.
And, this is our first Ingathering together.
I’m fairly certain it won’t be like other Ingatherings you’ve experienced, although there will of course be the amazing music from Adam Kent and the CUUC Choir, and of course a water ceremony. But there will also be differences – and maybe more differences than you’re used to, from the way the room looks to the sequence of the service, to the message and meaning.
As I wrote about two weeks ago, this is a year of experimentation and curiosity; this interim year calls us to examine who we are now and who we want to be. Part of that exploration includes worship: we have built a strong worship team made up of ministers, staff, and layfolk who will share the work and the ministry of our worship services. And while every part of the congregation is in “curiosity and experimentation” mode, you’re most likely to see that played out in worship each Sunday, as we move chairs, or move service elements, or try new methods, or hear new music, or whatever it is we have yet to dream up.
Yes, there will be a lot that seems new – and those new things may seem strange at times. We will be asking you to stretch beyond your comfort zone. We will be asking you to get curious with us, and experiment with us.
It may not always be easy, but what I know is that we have a strong, compassionate container for our experiments – this beloved congregation. We have an amazing opportunity to try some new things, and to try them together – and to make space for grace together. And we get to start that at our homecoming, our first service: our Ingathering.
See you Sunday.
PS: To those of you who tried to guess the origin of “Grace Notes” – while yes, there is a musical connection, and while yes, we are hoping to offer each other a great deal of grace this year, the answer is a bit closer to home: my grandmother’s name was Grace, and my mother gave me her name as my middle name. And when Mom would find something that her mother had written (a recipe, or a letter, or a greeting card), she would call them “Grace Notes.” It seems only appropriate that my short missives bear the same name.
In the Photo: Attendees at our Worship Retreat in August – Front: Kim Force, Terri Kung, Rev. Paul Langston-Daley; Back: Tracy Breneman, Rev. Kimberley Debus, Andrew Adachi, Eileen Macholl, Emily Economou, Nicky Klemens