Sunday, November 19, 2006

Living in Exile

I get to talk about my church a lot. It seems as though countless people are interested in hearing the story of Mount Vernon Place -- its history, its current state, and its plans for the future. While people will listen patiently to stories of the church's past, there are dozens of people who are spending time talking about the church's future.

I had two such conversations last week. The people at the table were a little different between Thursday's meeting and Friday's meeting. Still, everyone seemed interested in the future of Mount Vernon Place. And, everyone had an idea for what can happen at 900 Massachusetts Avenue when the property is redeveloped.

I sat patiently and listened to the words of denomination officials, seminary professors, and community leaders before being asked to share a few words about what is happening at Mount Vernon Place right now.

A smile soon filled my entire face as I started to talk. A new analogy quickly came to mind when I thought about how we are a congregation living in exile. We have left much of what is most comfortable to us.

We moved out of two buildings and sold or gave away many of the belongings.

We vacated our sanctuary at the end of August, moving worship to the undercroft theatre beneath the sanctuary.

We let go of many programs, unable to support them with the space needed.

We combined two, very independent and different Sunday school classes into one class.

And, none of these changes have been easy. Just like the Israelites, we have complained about what we have been asked to do. Still, we keep thinking about the 'promised land' that is coming -- a renovated sanctuary building and space in a new office tower. And, we keep experiencing the presence of God in bold, new ways. Something amazing is happening!

We are learning about what is really important.

We no longer climb the stairs to entire a monumental-like building. Instead, we enter a space that is a little dark and dingy in the basement. We no longer keep silent when it comes to the sharing of the joys and concerns. Instead, we speak up, sharing with others what God is doing in our lives and where we need to feel the presence of the Lord. We no longer remain in our seats when it comes time to share the passing of the peace. Instead, we walk around the room, shaking as many hands as possible. We no longer sit with 40 people in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. Instead, we had 58 people in the theatre today!

There is something powerful about letting go of all that we have in order to see what we might become through the grace of God.

We are now awaiting the arrival of an office trailer where we will move our offices, our Bible studies, and our opportunities for worship. I am curious to see what kind of transformative time we will have in the trailer. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the manna God provides each morning -- bread from heaven in the least expected places.

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