celebration, confirmation, and baptism in a joyful church family!

image from Amy Donahoo
Baptism at 11:15 – image from Amy Donahoo

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

In yesterday’s post I promised “Part Two” of our busy weekend. Here it is. But be warned: if you have bought in to the lie that the “mainline” church is dying, if you’re cynical, if you prefer your religion coated in rancor, or if you’ve simply grown tired of reading positive, encouraging, uplifting, thankful, life-charged reporting about my faith community… then you might want to skip this post.

What a great congregation!
What a great congregation!

WORTH THE LATE-NIGHT DRIVE: One reason Rebekah and I made sure we got home Saturday night was Confirmation Sunday morning at WFPC. 19 young-people from our eighth-grade youth had made the decision to follow Jesus, and we weren’t about to miss any of that!

I was also scheduled to serve as liturgist in the 11:15 service, and I always look forward to the unique perspective of experiencing church from behind the lectern, feeling the beautiful voices of the choir wash over me, looking into the faces of the crowd. Helping to lead in worship is a tremendous privilege, and it’s especially gratifying with a packed-full sanctuary of enthusiastic Presbyterians.

The responsive call to worship always fills the room with joyful praise, but this time I took advantage of my role to help people remember that their part is supposed to be more of a SHOUT! than a room-temperature reading.

“Good morning!” I said. “Please join me in the call to worship. Before we start I’d like to point out the exclamation marks located at the end of each sentence in the congregational response. Those punctuation marks mean we’re supposed to, Read with ENTHUSIASM!!! Is everyone on board?”

  • out-of-focus (taken while singing)
    out-of-focus (taken while singing)

    I paused for a moment, then began: “Sing to the Lord a new song!” And the congregation let loose their response, “GOD HAS DONE MARVELOUS THINGS!

  • “Make a joyful noise to the Lord!” I read. And close to 300 Presbyterians called back, “BREAK FORTH INTO JOYOUS SONG AND SING PRAISES!!
  • “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it,” I continued. And – with one voice, a great shout of praise – Wake Forest Presbyterian Church called to the Lord (breaking forth), “LET THE WORLD AND ITS PEOPLE SING TOGETHER FOR JOY!!!

I paused again – and despite the carpeting, I could hear an echo of praise still resounding; if we had rafters I’m sure they would have vibrated with the sound.

BAPTISM and MORE: And it was joy that marked the reception of our young people into full church membership. Nineteen professions of faith, five baptisms, a room full of the good kind of tears. A team of faithful leaders poured themselves into these teens since the early fall, and – like always – the adults involved have been encouraged and affirmed beyond their dreams.

Rebekah addressing the young people
Rebekah addressing the young people (image by Naomi Campbell)

Why does this touch us so deeply? Events such as confirmation and baptism reach deep into our souls simply because that is how we were designed. Ecclesiastes tells us that the Creator placed eternity in the hearts of people; all people. Sometime we recognize the Spirit easily, sometimes we’re too distracted and hard-hearted to receive it. But, always, God is reaching in to re-calibrate that fundamental connection.

The connection was abundantly evident at church Sunday morning. Then again, Sunday evening, when the CLC was filled with young and old for the youth spaghetti dinner and talent show.

“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had in the history of this event,” one parent said. According to the ticket folk, we had 100 more than last year, and last year was good.

Regardless of numbers, it’s the spirit of this place – The Spirit in this place – that makes me so grateful, and so encouraged. God is here; Jesus is the whole point of our life together; joy and gratitude become the natural result.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart…” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Peace – DEREK

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