Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises up
and his glory appears over you.
Lift up your eyes and look about you:
all assemble and come to you.
If there is one thing we are not good at as a parish, if there is anything our staff falls short of as a group, if there’s one place where I always utterly fail, it is acknowledging and celebrating wins. We should never be self-congratulatory in a prideful way (some church communities are). But, we shouldn’t be reluctant to know and name our wins, because our wins aren’t even ours to begin with, they’re God’s. So, recognizing and naming them is just giving him the glory. Before moving on to the next challenge we need to stop and thank God for his faithfulness and victory.
Sunday was a great victory and an amazing demonstration of God’s faithfulness.
- To begin with, the weather was perfect, if you could have custom ordered a day, that would’ve been it.
- The Cow Palace looked great, thanks to the efforts of dozens of ops ministers under the 24-7 lead of our Weekend Director Barry Sheehan (with some significant decorating design from staffers Alison Demartin and Kellie Caddick).
- Sight and sound were truly wonderful, thanks to our Creative Director Lucas Busco and Audio Engineer Jeremy Travos (don’t tell anyone, but they’re both wizards who possess magical powers). Thanks also go to their team of tech ministers.
- The “preshow” playfully greeted guests and helped them feel comfortable (an incredibly important thing to do for the unchurched). It was thanks to the talent Kristin Costanza and Chris Wesley demonstrate around here weekly.
- The ceremonies were flawless given the professional direction of Brian Crook, Bob Barczak and all our liturgical ministers; everything else ran smoothly too, thanks to hosts and parking ministers.
- The music was moving, inspiring and profoundly worshipful led by Rob Belanger, Al Walsh, Rich Skirpin and all their musical colleagues.
- The kids program, Time Travelers, was over the top fun and excitement thanks to Lisa Scata, Maggie German and their ebullient team of kid ministers. I saw one of their rehearsals and it was delightful.
- I know my Associate Tom Corcoran joins me in also extending thanks for the extra effort and labor of our other staff members last week: Kathleen Leslie, Jack Boivard, Matt Little, Jerry Dolle and Shaun Doyle. They filled in all the holes and kept everything running on Ridgely Road as well as at the Fair. And I hasten to add that all of us were powerfully assisted by the sustained efforts of so many volunteer ministry leaders.
Wonderful as all their work was however, it would have been of limited value if our parishioners hadn’t done their job, inviting unchurched friends and family. That they did was abundantly obvious. We more or less filled the Cow Palace…twice. We also did that last Christmas, but Sunday there were several hundred more chairs than Christmas too (about 3,200). From the perspective of the stage all I could think was “Wow!”
All that said, I think probably everybody I just mentioned would agree with me that our hats are off to Maria Folsom-Kovarik, Director of Adult Ministry, for her remarkable vision, direction, and determination. It was Maria who planned an unprecedented program getting members into ministry, at least for the day (we called them “First Serves”). Probably 600 people participated. Maria and her leadership team, a very impressive group, who all worked with discipline and dedication, seemed to do the impossible.
In turn, Maria would hold me remiss if I failed to acknowledge that the heroes of the day for all of us were the First Serves themselves.
When I arrived at the Cow Palace on Sunday morning, about 8:15am, I wondered into the ministers “backstage” area, where they were gathering. Immediately I was struck by a feeling of déjà-vu. I was remembering my first experience of a weekend at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. There, I was also wondering around the place before the service and I saw circles of people, hand in hand, apparently praying together. What was that all about, I thought. It turned out they were all member ministers, and they were praying for the people they would be serving. In the whole of my Catholic experience, I had never seen anything like it; it amazed me. That was the amazing sight I saw Sunday morning at the Cow Palace.
You know, not so long ago around here, Easter was a crazy chaotic exercise filled with frustrated efforts, hurt feelings and lots of dissatisfied consumers. This Easter people got up out of the pews, donned the T-shirts of servants and served instead. And because of what happened this Easter, we are a different parish church. We’re in a different place, you’ll see.
Look what God has done among us, lift up your eyes and look.