A couple of Sundays ago, something magical happened at our 11:15 service. As we transitioned from adult formation to setting up for our last service, every time I turned around, someone special had arrived. First it was an older couple who have limited their driving. Their daughter was in town and brought them to church. You should have seen their faces light up as one parishioner after another rejoiced in seeing them back in church. Then there was the graduate student who we see occasionally, but whose studies keep him super busy. I was delighted to see him again, and I think he was delighted to be recognized and warmly greeted. Then there was the couple who have both had health issues. I noticed early into the service they had quietly sneaked into the back row of the church, and when our eyes met, we both lit up with smiles. And none of that accounts for those who had returned after vacations, visiting family members of our Choral Scholars, and our regulars who were equally happy to experience the sense of reunion that Sunday.
That overwhelming sense of joy and reunion is at the heart of what has been our stewardship season this fall called, “Blessed to Belong.” In a world that can feel stressful, isolating, challenging, or discouraging, having a place where you can experience blessing and belonging is a priceless gift. That sense of belonging creates a sense of protection, comfort, encouragement, and hope. That sense of belonging creates so much joy you want to share the joy with others. That sense of belonging is one known through the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Though belonging can connote exclusivity, instead, at church, belonging begets belonging. The bubbling sense of delight we experience at Hickory Neck cannot help but be shared.
This Sunday, we will gather in our financial pledges for the 2019 budget year. Even our ingathering is a festive demonstration of belonging, as the community organically rises from their seats and joins the throngs showing their commitment to the work and ministry of Hickory Neck. The procession in our way of saying, “Yes, I want to belong here, and have my belonging mean something.” I cannot wait to join you all as we shuffle our way to the altar, blessing our commitment to Christ and Christ’s church, and hugging each other along the way. Oh Lord, I want to be in that number! When the saints go marching in!