(This song and video were released last fall, and I've watched and wept more than once at both the beauty of table fellowship and all the ways it has been strained and fractured in recent years.)
Incarnation began its life as a setup church. For three months, we met in the Grays' home for evening prayer, setting up chairs and a children's nook before the service, then serving food and cleaning dishes after the post-service meals. Next, we moved into Greenbrier Baptist, where we setup our nursery, atrium, a/v, signs, and altar every Sunday. We had the briefest of brief respites from December 2019 to March 2020, when we worshiped in the chapel at Arlington United Methodist, but then we moved to Zoom (with its own sort of technological setup), then our outdoor #canopychurch, and finally to our current home at Randolph. And through it all, whether potlucks or "snacklucks" (potlucks with snacks) or Zoom dinners or Donut Sundays or hot chocolate behind the dumpsters, we've always pitched in to tidy up together after post-service meals.
Setting up and tearing down is a major way we've always experienced community at Incarnation, and we love that! It unites us in common tasks, combats loneliness and isolation, and keeps our experience of church from being consumeristic. We are all co-laborers, and we all have a job to do and a gift to bring. If you think of church as our weekly meal, setting up and tearing down makes our worship much more like sitting down at the family table than going out to a fine restaurant. Everyone preps in the kitchen beforehand, everyone helps with the dishes afterward, and fellowship flows naturally between kitchen and table, serving and feasting.
At Sunday's parish meeting, we talked about some of the ways we'll all be learning new rhythms of serving at Randolph. We're still tweaking week to week, so we'll stay flexible and learn as we go. Here are a few key points from Sunday:
We want to protect the immediate after-service time for conversation. If you're on teardown duty or simply eager to help, wait 10-15 minutes first. Meet someone new and make sure they feel welcome; check out what the kids have been working on; receive after-service prayer; or try the zipline (!) before loading up.
We love our amazing custodians, Guillermo and Denisse. They are always there to help with anything we need. Treat them with kindness, thank them, and pray for them!
There is an order to loading the van. It’s printed on a laminated sheet inside the rear door of the van. PLEASE follow this order! When in doubt, leave items at the curb so we don't have to rearrange things loaded out of order. And if you notice a possible improvement, let us know!
We'd love a few more tech-minded folks to learn our a/v setup and be available for occasional help on Sundays. Most importantly, you'll get to work with the amazing Katie Foran. Interested? Email me or Katie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After the parish meeting, someone told me that she'd decided to bring one item to drop off by the van on her way out of church each week. What a lovely, simple way to pitch in! I'd encourage everyone to try something similar if you're able.
But . . . what if you are burned out on church volunteering, exhausted, corralling children, limited in mobility, emotionally frazzled, or simply have lunch plans? That's all okay. Really. Everyone has a gift to bring in this community, and if you can't pitch in with setup/teardown, there are countless other ways you can participate in our Sunday family meal. Perhaps including, for a season, simply showing up hungry and weary and empty-handed -- a quiet witness that all are welcome to come, eat, and rest at the Lord's table.
Questions? Ideas? Want to help? Want to go for a walk or grab coffee or Zoom or pray? Please reach out to me or Liz. We love extending our family meal throughout the week!
p.s. Next Sunday (Feb 6) we'll celebrate the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, also known as Candlemas, the day that we bless the church's candles for the coming year. Bring your own candles in person or to your Zoom screen as we pray for the light they (and all of us) will shine this year.