Walking our faith: Let us celebrate the people who make church happen (column)
Last Saturday I arrived at Mass an hour early. It was my first time as a Lector (reader), and I wanted to make sure that I did it right. I went to the lectern, and read the Old Testament and New Testament readings that had been assigned to the Mass that evening. I’d been practicing all week, but I knew I would be nervous standing before the congregation for the first time.
Despite my introversion, I love God’s Word and enjoy sharing its beauty with others. As I was to learn, there is something special about reading it aloud during Mass.
I ran through both passages twice. Then I went and sat in the pew assigned to readers, to wait for Mass to begin.
And here’s what I saw…
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For the next forty-five minutes, familiar faces scurried around the church preparing for Mass. Barb Rasmussen lighted candles and prepared the altar. Later, she would take her place at the front door with Margie Breslin to greet parishioners. Steve, our cantor, and Maggie, our pianist, were in the chapel warming up to lead the congregation in song.
Deacon Chuck read through the list of prayer requests, and while the church buzzed with preparations, Father Joe was hearing confessions in the confessional at the back of the church.
Fifteen minutes before Mass started, four men and women who would serve as Eucharist Ministers picked up the wooden cross necklace that they would wear as they served the consecrated bread and wine later in the Mass. And then it was time to begin.
I completed my first reading, sat down on the bench behind the lectern while Steve took my place to lead us in singing Psalm 40. Steve sung the opening verse: “I have waited, waited for the Lord, and he stooped toward me.” The congregation sang the response: “Lord, come to my aid!”
When I heard the Psalm’s words and meaning come to life as it was sung, tears came to my eyes with the stark difference between reading the psalm silently at home and hearing it sung in this sacred setting.
I understood two things in that moment: why the Psalms are meant to be sung, and why we take care to prepare ourselves to deliver our part of the Mass. As Steve finished and I rose to read a passage from Hebrews, I asked God to help me to convey the beauty of his word as well.
On a bright Sunday morning two blocks away at Father Dyer’s United Methodist Church, Taylor Katherine and Charlie Moorefield ring the church bell to welcome everyone to church. Barb Cole coordinates the volunteers who read the week’s Bible reading, call the congregation to light candles for prayer intentions, and welcome visitors with complimentary tubes of lip balm, a mountain necessity. Then there are the beautiful voices of the volunteer choir led by music director, Jason Wilber, and accompanist, Steve Worrall.
Even at Saint Dunstan’s small storefront church, Ken Mace, a retired architect, wears full vestments and assists throughout the service; Bonnie Schmidt plays traditional hymns on the organ.
Last Saturday evening as I sat waiting for Mass to begin, I realized what I had missed in previous weeks when I showed up ten minutes before church started: how vital volunteers are to the life of each of our churches.
When we notice these people who greet us each week, collect the offering, sing in the choir, if we think of them at all, we might surmise that they have a special calling or gift, and we have neither the time nor talent to join them.
Of course, that simply isn’t the case. All that is required is to show up thirty-minutes early once or twice a month. Every church needs the participation of more members of its congregation. Far too often, a few faithful souls are carrying more than their share of the volunteer load.
Let’s change that. I challenge you to find your place to pitch in when you go to church this Sunday.
I’ve described the numerous volunteer opportunities that occur during the weekly church service, but I also know that each church has great needs for volunteers for the service projects they sponsor during the week such as weekly community dinners, food bank and religious education classes.
Here’s the payoff for you: I believe you will experience a renewing of your faith as you participate in God’s work. You’ll make new friends, develop a closer relationship with your church, and yes, I believe you will be blessed in many ways, as well.
Join me by becoming an active participant in your church community!
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