Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Balloons in Church

Several months ago, when the Stewardship Ministry at The United Churches imagined what would happen on Consecration Sunday, they really wanted to celebrate our ministry. They wanted to make space for us to tell the story of what happens with our pledge dollars -- like a narrative budget in worship. At first, we thought we'd ask members of the church to highlight certain stories. Then, we thought we might ask each ministry in the church to tell a story. You know, really striking home on that narrative budget idea. They wanted it to be fun and exciting. Not just a bunch of numbers.

Then, someone mentioned that we should have a trumpet to announce the good news of our ministry. And that gave permission for someone else to say: it should be like New Years! We should have a balloon drop.

Someone once told me that ministry is about saying "yes." So, my reaction was obviously: "Yes, why shouldn't there be balloons in church?" Ann Weems sure thought so. Why wouldn't this be the perfect way to celebrate Consecration Sunday?

I was supposed to recruit leaders of the ministries to share their stories, but I failed. It got to be too late and I procrastinated too long. So, I was looking for another possibility. God bless Google. I googled and googled and googled until I found this liturgy from Seasons of the Spirit. It needed some tweaks because we had already recruited the trumpeter and there were no balloons. So, they had to be added. It resulted in this liturgy where the kids played a vital role.

First, this is how it looked in the bulletin.

Fanfare for the Harvest of Our Recent Ministry 

One: I thank my God every time I remember you,
constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,
because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
All: I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work 
among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 
One: And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more
with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best,
All: so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 
having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes 
through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. 

While the music plays, you are invited to write on the card provided the name of a person or recent event in the life of the church where you experienced challenge, growth, joy, or transformation. After you have written this celebration, raise the card above your head so that it can be collected by our pastor. 

One: O Holy One, for steadfast love, 
All: We give thanks.
One: For this call to ministry we share,
All: We give thanks. 
One: For this community of servant leaders,
All: We give thanks. 
One: For a harvest of righteousness greater than we asked for or imagined,
All: We give thanks and praise. 
One: We rejoice together for the good work being done in and through the ministry of the United Churches of Olympia and we pray for bold blessing on this work, now and always!
All: Let the trumpets sound! 

I know. You want to know where the balloons are. Because how it is written is not actually how it happened. In that italicized section, after the beginning of that opening prayer from Philippians 1, I offered a spoken invitation similar to what was written in the bulletin -- and then, I wandered around and collected cards held above the heads of our people. I did not tell them that I would be reading these cards -- and had originally thought that I would have more time to go through them and highlight a few in some semblance of order. That didn't happen. I flipped and read what jumped out at me.

After I read a celebration from a card, the trumpeter played some short fanfare. We did about 6 or 7 cards. There was a giggle the first time the fanfare appeared. It was unexpected. That makes sense. It totally broke down when I spoke the correct title for this new opportunity that the local rabbi and I started. The trumpeter was cracking up so much that I had to motion for him to play which he finally did. Grace is like that, isn't it? It was kinda perfect actually. After reading these 6 or 7 cards, I lead the prayer that follows in the bulletin.

Just after the congregation proclaimed "let the trumpets sound," our trumpeter played something celebratory of his own choosing. I do not even remember what it was. While he played, some of our children (who were recruited ahead of time) snuck into the balcony that mostly goes unused and dropped balloons onto the worshippers below. Another holy moment happened there. Folks started to bop those balloons so they continued moving. They didn't just fall but kept going. It was a powerful physical reminder of how we support each other in ministry. When the balloon is passed, we keep it going -- and then the children gathered them all up as the youngest generation does. They take what the older generations begin and make it their own. This resulted in this wonderful photo.

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