We arrive at the church to a bustle of activity. Only a few people are sitting; most mill about, socializing. Many make a point of introducing themselves, genuinely interested in meeting us. Names are important to them. They repeat ours, deliberate and intentional. When they share theirs, they pause, allowing time for us to truly hear.
The minister’s losing his voice and almost had to find a replacement; I’m glad he didn’t. Today’s message is on loving the world. He establishes the foundation for this. Then, to save his voice, he invites the congregation to complete the sermon by sharing examples of what others have done for them by showing love and providing care.
What each person relates is appropriate and relevant, heartfelt and often poignant, sometimes with halting voices and occasionally, tears. Acts of kindness, often done in obscurity are now proclaimed. They do this with sincere humility, lacking self-aggrandizement or calling undo attention to the person mentioned.
This congregation is a true community. They prove it in the quiet ways they help one another. Caring for each other is their witness.
The engaging community, present before the service and confirmed during it, continues afterwards. The pastor chats with us briefly and then excuses himself. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t feel well, but more likely because he doesn’t need to be present. The congregation envelops us into their community.