Today was simultaneously a great day and a tough day at Arlington.
This morning at 10am we had five new people join the church. Four of them were baptized, and the other reaffirmed his baptismal vows. Each one of these new brothers and sisters have had negative experiences with church in the past, feeling unwelcome, judged, etc. Each of them said that Arlington was the first place they felt loved and accepted for who they were.
Their new commitments to Christ today are a testament to the love of God made known through the people of our church, who welcomed in people who were taking a big step by even walking into a building with a steeple on top. They showed their love over the weeks and months in ways both big and small, helping these people grow comfortable enough to enter into the communal journey of discipleship. Today was one of those days where the church was living into what God believes we can be, and I am very proud to serve as their pastor.
Today was also tough because tonight was the last service of The Road, at least for a little while. We're taking a summer hiatus, with the goal of returning in the Fall in some form.
The Road was our project almost from day 1 at Arlington. When I was first projected here and had my first meeting with the congregational leaders, they mentioned that they had had energy around an alternative worship gathering for a number of years. I replied that I had had experience birthing such a service at Crievewood, so very early on such a new service became our goal. A team of folks spent the better part of a year studying and visioning what it would look like together, and the first Sunday after Easter in 2012, we launched The Road.
Since then we've had good times and hard times. We've had big crowds and done worship just for the team that makes the service happen every week. Lately it's been more of the latter, which is why we're taking the break for the summer.
Having invested so much of my time, energy, and passion into The Road, it's very hard not to take the reality that the service is not effective in its current format personally. Intellectually I know that's not the case, of course, but my humanness keeps pulling me back into a frame of mind where it's all about me.
As we worshipped tonight, there was a good energy, and yet a strange sense of finality, like it was all over. I'm simultaneously relieved because I'm exhausted and need the break, and yet I'm also very sad because part of me feels like we failed. I know that's not the case, of course. We can tell stories of many people who have been blessed by what God has been doing through The Road, but that's my lesser self creeping in again.
So the great joy of the baptisms this morning and the disappointment of the hiatus beginning this evening sit side by side. Neither cancels the other out (which I suppose is a sign of progress, because my tendency is to let the negative win the day), but the end result is that all my emotional energy is spent, and I'm turning to blogging- a form of expression I haven't utilized much lately-to express it as best I can.
Today is perhaps a microcosm of what the totality of life and ministry are all about. Tomorrow's sabbath rest is sorely needed, then it's back unto the breach once more...