Monday, August 27, 2007

The First Day of School

The public schools in Washington, D.C. are back in session today. Traffic was heavier this morning as school buses became part of the mix. Backpacks have been purchased. Pencils have been sharpened. Butterflies have appeared in stomachs. The newspapers have published stories on the many faults and shortcomings of the public school system. The mayor has made new promises that things will soon be different. Here we go!

Individuals from Mount Vernon Place joined a team of people from Asbury United Methodist Church on Saturday morning, participating in the DC Public School Beautification Day. We planted flowers. We pulled some weeds. We met the principal. We met some parents of the students who attend the school. We met some of the students who attend the school. And, we saw firsthand glimpses of what the newspapers have told us.

When we arrived at the school, it was the principal who greeted us. None of her team was there. No teachers were there to assist us. None of the other school employees were there. It was the principal who was alone - trying her best to make sure that all of the bulletin boards were covered in every classroom. She was also sifting through the many books that had finally been delivered to the school - discovering that while there were plenty of some books there were other classes that would definitely have a shortage of books. And, she was doing her best to welcome us and offer her appreciation to us.

Still, the entire time we were there, I kept asking myself, "Where is everyone else? Where are the teachers? Does anyone care about the students as much as this principal does?"

I recognize that we were volunteering on a Saturday, and that weekend time is precious time - particularly the weekend before school starts. Still, something was missing. The leader of the team was present - but everyone else on the team was missing.

And, in the midst of it all, I was led to give thanks for the church. While it is easy for some people to believe that the pastor is responsible for everything, I cannot imagine being the only one available and ready to welcome people into the church whether it is a Monday, Tuesday, Saturday or a Sunday. Seeing the principal all alone on Saturday has reminded me of just how thankful I am for the people of Mount Vernon Place who continue to claim their gifts and share them with others - the people who live out the claim placed on their life at their baptism - when we become part of the priesthood of all believers.

Thank you, Michael, for making coffee and making sure that the details of the fellowship hour are always tended to.

Thank you, Beth, for organizing opportunities to faithfully serve in our community.

Thank you, members of the choir, for offering your voices as joyful sounds to the Lord.

Thank you, Anne, Ariana and Greg, for standing at the door yesterday, saying to all who entered, "Welcome to Mount Vernon Place!"

Thank you, volunteers, who are taking meals each night this week to a couple who were in a car wreck.

Thank you, Barbara, for writing down every single joy and concern that was expressed in worship on Sunday and for being willing to faithfully pray for each person.

Thank you, church members, who brought cookies for the children under the care of the Baltimore-Washington Conference Board of Childcare. And, thank you, Annie Lou, for delivering these cookies.

Thank you, men and women, who brought food and served with us at Calvary Women's Shelter last night.

Thank you, Megan, for putting signs outside before church yesterday morning.

Thank you, Theon and Nathan, for helping to take everything down following church yesterday.

Thank you, the faithful community of Mount Vernon Place, who are trying to be like Christ in downtown Washington.

Gracious and Loving God, thank you for the joy and the privilege of learning. We give you thanks and praise for schools, for teachers, for leaders and for students. Please be with the people in this city on this day as they start a new school year. Open the ears and the minds of students. Instill within teachers courage, insights, wisdom, patience and understanding. And, show us how we can be better partners with the children, men and women who educate and are educated in this city. Amen.

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