Tuesday, November 20, 2012
FSE #6: Lovely Adventures
ANYWAY, I just returned at midnight last night from a whirlwind of a weekend. I drove down on Saturday, Nov. 17, to our Free Methodist Church in Santa Ana, for a Hispanic youth rally called Explosión Juvenil 2012. Completely, totally fantastic -- from the colored lights to the thumping worship to the torta sandwiches for sale out front, made by beautiful abuelitas... a powerful meeting full of praise and worship by a ton of young people. I had many highlights, but perhaps my favorite was seeing four of our pastors up front on the worship stage, dancing in worship with the worship band, leading the students in humility and joy. How I love seeing not just youth, but the key adults in their lives, being together in that way.
From there I drove to Azusa and spent two nights. I got a nice day of rest and Sabbath on Sunday, with a little side trip to Flappy Jacks on Route 66. A fellow gluten-free friend hooked me up and I'm telling you, to get to have a big, goopy waffle after at least three years of deprivation was pretty. darn. amazing. Their helpings are enough to choke a horse, so my food extended into lunch as well. Not complaining.
That evening I went to The Gathering, another Free Methodist service that is being led in partnership with Azusa Pacific University. I have been working with the campus ministries pastor who is leading this service. I felt so fortunate to see another unique way that our movement is seeking to reach its neighborhood. As we say in describing worship as one of our Five Core Freedoms (summed up in using the term "Free" in our denominational name), "The FMC gives freedom to each local congregation to follow the Spirit’s leading on how they worship. Some Free Methodist Churches worship in liturgical style with daily office, while others worship in charismatic style with praise choruses. A few have taken this freedom to create a blended style of worship that brings together a community of people of all ages and creates a family of God that accepts both sacramental liturgy and the Christian year as well the most recent of praises choruses and prayer services. Worship includes not only the music of praise and the study of Scripture but also the sharing of life in community."
As if I hadn't gotten to do enough cool stuff already, I woke up Monday morning and headed over to APU to speak in their morning chapel. I have spoken at Westmont's chapel a couple of times, but APU is about four times larger than Westmont! Their chapel meetings are major productions with all sorts of media, including live feed to another location.
This little youth pastor was rather daunted... I am used to just using my little powerpoint clicker, a Bible and telling some funny stories. In multiple emails back and forth with the tech teams, I tried to not let myself get rattled as I tried to navigate the use of slides and music and quotes and such. But I should have known better... I showed up right on time on Monday to run through tech and who is there but the beautiful and amazing Hannah Elliott Williams! (Pictured above at her wedding, surrounded by us as her former high school small group). I know that Hannah had been working with production for chapel, but just sort of assumed she'd moved on to something else since I hadn't heard from her in preparation.
I am not sure I have ever been so grateful to be wrong. Not only is Hannah still involved, but she's running all the tech for all the chapels on campus... and APU run seven of them each week to several thousand students. Incredible and super duper cool. Hannah was in full bossy lady form yesterday, and completely set me up to succeed, allowing me to use the music and slides I had submitted.
It was a wonderful, wonderful time. The chapel time opened with an APU Gospel Choir that blew the roof off the building. I knew with that sort of set up that I would be fine. The students were incredibly receptive and warm, and even laughed at my jokes. Someday they will post the message on iTunesU, and maybe I'll post the link here. I made a nice fool of myself, but also challenged them to grow up to maturity in Christ by going to / joining / loving the church, the bride of Christ. What a privilege. The rest of the day was full of meetings with students, sweet conversations with students who stopped me to talk about chapel, a meeting with students who want to pursue vocational ministry in their future, and my seminary class in the evening. PHEW. I am rather tired, but smiling.
How blessed and grateful I was for this entire weekend, for this crazy stuff that all adds up to a job that I love, and to see a former student (now a dear friend) who is simply THRIVING. I have already had Thanksgiving!