Grateful for Grace

A week and a day and Thanksgiving.  Three days later, first Sunday of Advent.  How did we get here from there?  Someone asked me recently what I think I might be remembered for most in my years at Grace.  My immediate answer?  Preaching from the roof on Christmas Eve 2020. I remember it was Kyle in my recollection who said he had an idea, and that maybe it was crazy.  And we went up to the top floor, went to the particular Sunday School room in question.  Opened the window, a verrrrry narrow opening I might add, and squeezed through it to see if we could, we did, and the idea started toward reality.

Music man Rick would tell you I promised that if it was below freezing we wouldn’t do it.  It might have been below freezing, but . . . you know the whole farm-girl preacher never cancels worship so there’s that.  It was cold.  Our tech. wizard Chandler figured out a way to put the FM transmitter on one of our light poles so it would reach to the back of the parking lot.  I still have the bright hunter orange insulated gloves and hunter orange stocking cap I purchased from Bass Pro the day before the service.  I gave the coat away, it kept me so warm that night, folks who have to be out on more than one cold night deserved it I think.

And you came, you crazy Grace people!  You came in your cars and your trucks and your SUV’s and your suburbans and you blinked your lights for affirmation and honked your horns for Amen’s.  It both was and wasn’t the best Christmas ever.  It was Covid.  It was people getting sick and some we weren’t ready to lose, moving into God’s full presence.  And yet it was Christmas, the promise of new birth, the promise of new life, the promise that because of birth and new life, death never has the last word.  And it was on the roof.  Walt spray painted a bright orange line a couple of feet from the edge that I was told not to walk past.  I might have a couple of times, because me.  Robin donned her winter clothes and parka and still found a way to interpret the service for the deaf and hearing impaired.  I loved that. 

At the end of the service we crawled back through the window and raced down and ran through the parking lot – the distance between the front entrance and the exit at the top of the hill is farther than it looks, especially for an outta shape oldie, but I didn’t break a hip, Christmas Eve miracle.  But I wasn’t about to let you all leave without getting to see your faces at least a little closer and wish, and be wished, a merry Christmas.   

* Video and photos below this post. 😉  — Webmaster

It comes to my mind as I’m doing no small amount of reflecting as we stand at the threshold of the holidays.  It is such a telling microcosm of who we are as a community of faith.  A) That we have and have always had a congregation and staff that is absolutely willing to think outside the box, color outside the lines, realize there is more than one way to get to a destination and it’s rarely if ever in a straight line.  B) When someone creative comes up with a “crazy” idea, there is a team full of people that, instead of saying that we’ve never done it that way before, instead takes turns saying this is how we can make that happen from beginning to end and have fun doing it, mostly.  It was cold.  And C) That we love to innovate and create and try new things in new ways and win, lose, or draw, we’re going to love our way into our best selves for God’s sake and our best understanding of God’s vision.

You realize those things are NOT going to change – who Grace is and has been from the ground of our beginnings.  There are these stories in each chapter and generation.  Stories of creativity and adaptability.  Stories of resilience and courage beyond what was imagined.  Some fussing and fighting along the way but a Spirit that would never let God’s people in this place give up or give in to a less than faith-filled future in times of stability and times of greatest risk.

The classroom with the window we crawled out of and onto the roof was the room in about 2006 when I was teaching confirmation and our students and mentors were jammed into it as the largest classroom we had but still wasn’t really large enough, that I finally heard a word.  On more than one Sunday afternoon of class I would come back to my office and sit breathing the air so deeply to settle my stomach.  That many people in that size of room with perhaps some hygiene challenges almost sent this farm-girl to the floor.  I can handle all kinds of dramatic sights, all kinds of dystopian sounds, can even touch things that make human beings cringe.  But smells, odors, less than pleasant wafts of that which overpowers the best anti-perspirant, brings me to the floor.  It was that very spring when a group of layfolks in the youth department came to me, again, and said we needed to expand our building.  So yes, the pastor who said she would never serve a church that wanted to build or expand physical space, agreed to start the process of information gathering and study to add our east wing because of questionable hygiene in a too-small classroom one random winter into spring into summer season of Confirmation.  Who says God doesn’t have a keen and sly sense of humour?!?

So many stories of God’s working in this place from 1858 through 2022.  Who are we to even begin to doubt God’s continued affirmation and work and nudging and urging and making clear, however it needs to be communicated, what God’s unimaginable and creative plan is for the years and generations ahead?  We don’t have to look very far to know what God has done over, and over, and over again and therefore will not cease to do as we live into and through this transition toward what and who comes next!

Please know entering into this next week of Thanksgiving how grateful I am for a God who sees beyond our limitation, a God who walks with us through every step of our journey, and a God who continues to put us in places where we can love each other into our best selves.  Being grateful for Grace is more than a minute, or even two, of grace for me especially this season and especially in this particular year.

(Link to Video)

Christmas 2020 video and photos