I found myself looking around at last night’s First Fellowship gathering and feeling the powerful Spirit of God in our midst: refreshing, renewing, and real.

Volunteers working tirelessly and faithfully to have hot barbeque and all the fixings ready for hungry folks to receive it. Music teachers and leaders pouring themselves into our children as they learn the songs of faith. The gathered community trickling in — some from a quiet day at home, others rushing hastily from work; some hesitant, others exuberant. Warm hugs and meaningful conversation with a friend who recently suffered a tremendous loss. Hugs for other friends who had had a hard week — struggles at work, at home, on the road filling their days. Table fellowship that paired youth with age, longevity with newness. A time of celebration that toasted the 14 year-olds through the 80 year-olds and everyone in between. The village that we call ‘beloved community’ attending to one another: carrying trays, entertaining toddlers, getting refills, and holding space for the sweet, sweet Spirit to move within.

After a rousing video that illustrated for us what to expect in a few weeks when we gather to Rise Against Hunger and the excited chatter we heard all around the room (including my Liam, who rushed up to me and said, “Mommy!! Sign me up for that!”), our older kids and youth began passing around the hymnals. With David anchoring our music-making and bringing our individual efforts to life, we started hollering out our requests: “Number 247!” and “Victory in Jesus!” filled the air.

I’m not sure if it was David’s lovely singing voice, or songs that give voice to our deepest yearnings, or sharing in song with our family of faith, but I felt a calmness descend — on me, on us. I watched you singing the stanzas of “Blessed Assurance” and “It Is Well With My Soul” for memory. I gave thanks for you who occasionally reached over and squeezed a neighboring hand, or shared a moment of knowing laughter, or flipped excitedly to find your favorite hymn. I saw in your faces and heard in your voices the sound of what John Claypool used to call “the long obedience in the same direction,” of memory and meaning that only music can capture. I felt God’s Spirit — sweet and stirring, present and beckoning — settling within and among us. Even if but for a moment, I was still.

“Sometimes you just need a good ole’ hymn-sing to refresh the weary soul,” was Meredith’s caption of the picture here taken last night. Sometimes you just do, don’t you?

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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