I was so grateful to worship with the congregation at Glencliff UMC this morning, especially since it is the new church home for my friends from 61st Avenue UMC, a church that closed June 24, 2017. I was warmly greeted as I entered the church and that welcome continued throughout the morning!
I was not surprised to feel tears in my eyes when I observed my friends coming up the stairs from Sunday School, mingling before we entered the sanctuary. It was apparent they were valued as new congregants in this holy place. It was a moment in time for me to share.
I had met two members of this church at the last service at Sixty-First Avenue…Sam and Carolyn. They just happened to be sitting behind me that evening. I remember turning around to greet them when that part of the service allowed…..and also remember how remarkable it was they would honor their new friends by attending this last service! There may have been others who attended as well.
Seeing the interactions today, the smiles, the hugs….. intentional inclusion in incorporating traditions that were part and parcel of worship at Sixty-First Avenue UMC now becoming a part of the worship service, namely singing “Soon and Very Soon” at the end of the service, along with the customary accompanying dance, all joined in a circle! These are very real and genuine gestures that respect these new congregants. They are visible measures of building community, one week at a time!
I pray always for these congregants who have had to make such a huge change in their lives. I never cease to be amazed that Rev. Neelley Hicks has been their shepherd in a difficult transition. I fully appreciate that it takes time to bring comfort in the form of new friendships, new spaces, new community. But, I left with a clear vision of hope. Rev. Sandra Griggs, the pastor of Glencliff, is not only welcoming our friends to their new place of worship but has partnered with Open Table Nashville to build 22 220 square foot homes for the homeless on the church property. I think that reflects very much her caring approach to all who sit at Jesus’ table.
I look forward to hearing about the ways Brenda and Mary, Jimmy and Smoky and Annette and Calvin, Sanford, Daniel and Margaret…and sweet Brenda Jackson, who has already sung a solo at her new church……. identify their own gifts and offer those gifts to this lovely church family…..they will become an asset to the ministries of Glencliff and God will use them as part of this church family to be disciples and love their neighbors as God loves us.
It was a joyful morning…..and full of beautiful music provided by the Glencliff choir, Eric and Neal and Aimee….and Sam, who has been in choir 54 of his 92 years….and sang a beautiful solo!
For some reason I kept thinking of the Samaritan story all the way home. No one is excluded as our neighbor. Christ made us one through his grace and that’s what I saw today…..and can see for the future.
Praise be to God for neighbors!