For all that is our life! by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard
I’m thrilled that after two months of wandering in the wilderness, so to speak, we’ll be back in our own Sanctuary this coming Sunday morning! A huge amount of work has gone into repairing the building following February’s burst pipe, and with the new flooring and upgrades to the kitchen, it looks fantastic! We owe great thanks to the Building Restoration Task Force for all of the time and effort they devoted to making this possible!
Of course, if we had to hold services somewhere other than in our own space, we couldn’t have asked for a place better than Sandy Bottom State Park. It’s certainly been a beautiful setting for us to meet, with large windows looking out over the lake and through the trees, allowing us watch the Earth come to life as Winter gave way to Spring. More than a few people have commented to me that they hope we can have a Sanctuary like that some day!
Being at Sandy Bottom has also allowed us to try doing some things a little differently. Aside from necessity, that’s one of the benefits of a change of scenery. It’s the reason why Boards go on retreat and ministers go on sabbatical, to see what different surroundings might allow in terms of new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking to address existing challenges. The intention is that some different perspectives can then be brought back to enhance and improve congregational life.
One thing we’ve been doing differently at Sandy Bottom is taking attendance. As Henry Chambers explained a couple of Sunday mornings ago, this is our most direct way to know who is not present. After all, anybody who comes to a service or the Sunday Morning Forum is — we hope! — interacting with the other people who come, checking in with one another, and renewing those human connections that form the basis of our community. But what about those who don’t come?
Well, part of the promise we make to one another to be a community is to notice when someone has been missing lately, and then to reach out to them. Simply getting in touch with someone and letting them know we’ve missed them can make a world of difference! We might find out that their work schedule has changed, which prevents them from attending on a Sunday, but they’d like to participate in other ways. We might find out that they’ve had health problems, but all it would take is a ride from another member to help them get to the Fellowship again. We might find out that they weren’t sure where their life’s journey was taking them, but knowing that we thought of them reminded them that they’d already found a friendly place with us.
A couple of years ago, we started a practice of bidding farewell to people who we know are leaving us, usually because they’re moving out of Virginia. After all, it matters to the rest of us to be able to say goodbye because it mattered to us say hello when we first welcomed them. But the fact is that we, like any other congregation or community, lose more people because they simply drift away and we don’t even notice.
So as Henry explained, taking attendance isn’t about the people who are here. We’re great at greeting and making welcome the people who do walk through our door. Rather, it’s about the people who are not here, and to whom, in promising to be a community, we ought to reach out with the simple offer of human connection. The methods by which we take attendance will evolve as we become re-accustomed to Sunday mornings in our own facilities, but by whatever means we determine who is here so that we can figure out who is not here, we will do our best to live up to our promises to care about one another.