KOH2RVA: Day 240

We_Can_Do_It!At the end of worship on Sunday I praised the communion team for “filling all those little cups.” I did it because I had heard some reports about how long it takes to do that, and how much work it is, and how little it seems to be appreciated. So I wanted to appreciate, publicly, the team that fills those little cups so we can have communion.

Since then I’ve been thinking about that line, “They also serve who only stand and wait,” from a poem by John Milton, which was used during World War II to affirm those who didn’t fight on the front lines, yet were still invaluable to the effort.  I found this post on a web site called “WWII Talk” by someone named “Jamesicus”:

Support and Administrative personnel are essential to winning wars. The men and women who fight in battle on the front lines rightfully get most of the glory and reap the accolades for they spill the blood and undergo the extreme hardships and are the most frequently and terribly wounded, often bearing the scars of battle for the rest of their lives. Many pay the supreme sacrifice in the bloom of their youth to defend their country and, in the case of WW2 especially, in order to preserve worldwide liberty and freedom.

However, wars could not be fought nor victories won without the legions of behind the scenes support personnel: clerks, cooks, transportation, supply, medical, maintenance, command & control, weather, civil engineers, legal, training, mechanics ….. and so on (I have probably inadvertently omitted many). They are the unsung and often unheralded heroes and heroines of the military who, like the combat soldiers sailors and airmen, endure long periods of separation from their loved ones, interminable boredom and loneliness and sometimes are wounded or die from non-battlefield injuries.

I want to salute the combat veterans of each branch of all Allied Military forces and offer profound thanks for their service and devotion—particularly those who were wounded or paid the supreme sacrifice in WW2—we are here today enjoying our freedoms and pursuit of happiness because of what they did.

I also salute the myriads of support personnel who toiled so hard and endured so much—frequently without much recognition—in order to insure the success of innumerable military missions and to aid & succor the magnificent fighting men and women.

“They also serve who only stand and wait”

Well said, Jamesicus, whoever you are, and thank you for reminding me that it’s not only the people who are on the front lines of this year-long, every-member mission trip who are helping us succeed, but also the “legions of behind the scenes support” as you put it: the communion team, the baptism team, the teller committee, the Sunday school teachers, the nursery workers, the deacons, the church officers, the standing committee members, the support staff, the custodians, the bus drivers, the ushers and greeters (like Jamesicus, I have “probably inadvertently omitted many”). They are the unsung and often unheralded heroes and heroines of this year-long, every-member mission trip we call KOH2RVA.

We couldn’t do it without them.

KOH2RVA: Day 155

KalenaYesterday was a full day for the pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

I left my house at 8:00 to walk the four-and-a-half blocks to “Mission Central” (that’s what Billy Burford, our administrator, calls the church campus at the corner of Monument and the Boulevard. I like it). I got there in time to meet with our worship leaders and clip on my wireless microphone before the service began at 8:30. It was Commitment Sunday, and at the end of the service people streamed forward to lay their pledge cards, tithes, and offerings on the altar. And Cari DuVal told me that yes, she thought she would like to become a full member of First Baptist.

That’s another story altogether, but a good one. Cari grew up in another denomination. She’s been one of our most committed Watchcare members for years now. The recent change in our membership policy allows her to join without being re-baptized but she told me yesterday she would like to be immersed in the swimming pool in Helena, Arkansas, where she has been participating in an annual mission trip for the last several years. The catch? I have to come do it.

I’m checking my calendar.

Between our two morning worship services Dot Smith brought me coffee and a plate full of treats to keep me going. She does it every Sunday, but yesterday it was especially appreciated. The day was just getting started.

The third-grade Sunday school class knocked on my door around 10:15. They were on a prayer walk, and wanted to pray for me. How sweet!

The 11:00 service followed the same order as the 8:30, but the two services are never the same. At the end of the second service people streamed forward again with pledge cards, tithes, and offerings, but this time Rob and Katie Courain told me they were ready to join the church.

Rob and Katie are the young couple who head up the powerful city-wide worship celebration called RVA United, and it felt like a great compliment to First Baptist that they would choose to join a church that doesn’t worship with drums and guitars (usually), but instead sings hymns out of a book (gasp!). There must be something good going on at First Baptist. Rob and Katie say it’s our mission, that they, too, are trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.

After worship I went to a three-hour meeting of the Ministry Planning Team, where we worked on a mission, vision, and values statement for First Baptist Church. It’s hard work, but good work. We spent a lot of time talking about who we are, what we’re trying to do, and the challenges we face as we do it. We didn’t finish our statement, but we came a lot closer.

My next meeting was with the Communication Team, thirty minutes later. They wanted to hear my thoughts as we anticipate David Powers’ retirement in September. David has been doing this job nearly twenty years. He is the driving force behind our television broadcast, our webcast, our website, our in-house publications, and our printed pieces. It’s hard to imagine the post-Powers era, but we did. We spent a full hour talking about the ways technology is changing and how it impacts communication. Jim Norvelle told us how he tuned into our webcast from the west coast last week (at 5:30 Pacific Time), watching the service on his iPhone even before he got out of bed. What will it be like five years from now, ten, fifteen?

From there I went to the Prayers for Healing service in the chapel, and spent a little more than an hour in that candlelit room praying, singing, listening to Bev Carroll talk about the work of spiritual rehabilitation, lighting a candle for my dad, praying with those who requested it, serving communion, and offering the benediction. It was a solemn, holy experience, followed almost immediately by…

Crazy dancing in the youth suite!

I had been invited to drop by for Kalena Porter’s surprise birthday party and when I got up to the third floor I found the youth line dancing. I watched as long as I could stand it and then just jumped in, much to their delight (there is nothing quite so funny, apparently, as seeing the senior pastor dance). Just before Kalena arrived we turned out the lights and waited to yell, “Surprise!” I think Kalena was surprised. The picture above was taken seconds afterward, as she was being rolled down the pink carpet created by Chloe Buchanan (at left in the photo).

Kalena has a terminal illness. She’s not going to be in our youth group much longer. But last night the youth poured out all the love they could on her and she was able to receive it gratefully. I couldn’t have been prouder.

Yesterday was a full day for the pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. I didn’t get home until 7:00. But this morning I find myself savoring almost every detail of a day that was filled with worship, work, and witness.

A day when heaven came to earth.