Think back to your favorite memory of a special dinner. Maybe it's a family holiday meal, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Maybe it was a birthday or a "just-because" dinner party with friends. You arrive to find the hosts bustling in preparation, pulling delicious-smelling dishes out of the oven, slicing veggies for a salad, pulling out glasses for drinks. What's your first question? "What can I do to help?" Other guests roll in and ask the same thing, and soon you're working with someone setting the table, while another guest is finishing the salad with the host, and a third is taking everyone's beverage orders and then entertaining everyone else with funny stories. The meal hasn't even started, but the party has already begun!
Afterwards, no one just eats and runs. You linger over coffee or dessert, and the host gets up and starts the dishes while still joining in the conversation at the table. Soon, you and another guest have started gathering up the dishes, and a third is collecting used napkins and empty bottles while the host puts together to-go containers of leftovers for everyone. You linger and enjoy each other's company until the last dish has been washed, and it's time to say goodnight. Your time of fellowship was longer and richer because of the shared work on either side.
We have the same opportunity on Sunday mornings! During Sunday worship, we gather for a feast -- the Eucharist. But worshipping in Randolph gives us an opportunity to make our time of fellowship richer and longer by sharing the preparation and the clean up on either side. Our season of Canopy Church was more like one long picnic than a fancy dinner party. People rolled up with their own baskets, and while we sampled from a shared spread of drinks and snacks, the set-up and teardown was much more confined.
So when you arrive on a Sunday morning, ask "What can I do to help?" And if you have tasks to do, see if you can grab a couple of other people and invite them to come help. And then before leaving, pause and make a couple trips out to the van, or help stage items near the back door. Introduce yourself to those working around you that you haven't met and take the opportunity to get to know them a bit.
For those of you who are newer, or feeling like you don't know what to do to help... that is ok! We're all figuring this out as we go along, and we want everyone to be a part of that. Ask someone, anyone, what would be helpful. If you see someone doing something that you'd like to be able to help with, ask them to show you how to break down the altar, or clean up the atrium (the name we give our kids' space). If you're more comfortable helping out in a formal volunteer role, email me and I'll be sure you're on the schedule and that you have support in learning the different roles that you're interested in (e.g. reading, greeting/ushering or praying).
As we move out of our "picnic" approach towards Sunday mornings, we're also going to re-start some of our rhythms of assigning and communicating volunteer roles in advance. If you haven't checked out Planning Center Online (PCO) in a while -- or ever! -- this is a great time to revisit that. You can set your volunteer preferences, 'like' which roles you're interested in, how many Sundays a month you prefer to serve, or if you'd like to be scheduled at the same time (or different times) as a specific person. You can also input your "block out dates" for dates that you will be out of town or simply unavailable to serve. The more information we have, the easier it is for us to make the schedule, and the fewer emails you'll get from me asking you to jump in on different roles ;-). Soon we'll be in a rhythm of sending out the dates that everyone has been scheduled for a month or two in advance, and you'll have the opportunity to accept or reject those volunteer assignments. I'll continue sending out the weekly volunteer assignment email, but in most cases you should already know that you're scheduled for a given week.
Even though many of us are excited by the opportunity to gather and participate in worship in person again, we also recognize that there are those among us who aren't comfortable worshipping without masks, or who feel worn out by the burden of volunteer responsibilities. If that is you, tell us! Block out dates that you simply don't want to have a formal role. Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply show up and be present. Sometimes that's all we can do, and that is welcome as well! We want to be a safe place for people who need to rest in the presence of God and in fellowship with his church. Or, on the days when you need to stay home and join via Zoom, know that you are still loved, thought of, and valued. As we re-establish our rhythms of volunteering, we will be gracious and gentle with ourselves and each other. And together, we'll set the table, prepare our hearts, and join in the feast.
If you have any questions or thoughts about volunteering on Sundays, I'd love to hear from you!