Although I was working this past Sunday, my family elected to take a much-needed post-Holy Week/Easter Sunday break. I explained the details to our younger daughter on Saturday night, and she threw a fit. “But I’ll miss Sunday School…and the bread and wine…and the Peace…and Children’s Chapel!” The more she thought about what she would miss, the more upset she got. Her disappointment was both heart-breaking and heart-warming. As a priest, I always hope my children will find meaning in church. But as a PK (preacher’s kid) myself, I also am fully aware that sometimes you sit in church because that’s part of your role. Hearing our younger child long for the “stuff” of church filled my heart with joy.
Fortunately, that joy is not limited to PKs. I talked to another parent on Sunday whose family had been traveling the last couple of weeks. She relayed that when she told her preschooler that today was a church day, he jumped up a down throughout the house singing, “It’s church day! It’s church day!” Combine that with the faces of our children that light up when they reach the altar rail to receive communion, and I know that Hickory Neck is doing something right. Our teachers and worship leaders are making a big impact – but so is each member who makes them feel welcome, included, and invaluable.
The funny thing is, I think the adults at Hickory Neck feel the same way. I’m not sure most of them are jumping up and down on Sunday mornings (at least not without coffee), but as I have met and talked with members over the last year, there is a common thread in those conversations: parishioners come to Hickory Neck each week because they long to be there. For some, the feeling is easily attributable: the comfort of music or communion, the connection with fellow church members, or the invitation to step into prayer with others. For others, they may not even understand why they are drawn to church; they just know they want to be there – something intangible draws them in.
Sometimes I think our inability to articulate our joy and fulfillment we find at church is what holds us back from inviting others to join us. Perhaps we worry about what negative experiences someone has had and we don’t want to deal with wading through the dark side of church. Perhaps we worry that we will not explain the experience well enough for someone to want to join us. Or perhaps we are embarrassed, worried that we will seem more like a child filled with joy than an adult with a persuasive invitation. Today, I invite you to think about what it is at church that brings you joy – what keeps you coming back every week, and then share an invitation (to Hickory Neck, or to your own church home). I’ll be sharing some of my joy with you at our Rector’s Forum on Sunday. I would love to hear yours too!