“Since 2005 we have taken our celebration of Christmas to the Maryland State Fairgrounds, which happen to be here in Timonium. Last year we moved our Easter celebrations there too. We started out in a facility called the “Exhibition Hall” with about 1500 seats. Last year we moved to another building called the “Cow Palace” with about 4,000 seats. Why do we do it? Why do we go to all the trouble and considerable expense to make this move at Christmas and Easter? Simple, our founder told us to. In the Acts of the Apostles Peter says
Jesus commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
to judge the living and the dead.
He has commissioned us to preach and teach about life: the life that is his victory over death and the life he wins for us through his death and resurrection, the life we celebrate at Easter.
Part of our job as Christ followers is living that life, and another part of our job is sharing that life.
Easter is the perfect time to do it, because people who are seldom interested in coming to church and hearing our message might just be interested this Sunday (depending on what time they have brunch reservations).
We could just hang out in our clubhouse on Easter, maybe give out tickets to insiders to make sure the visitors don’t take our seats. We could enjoy our pretty decorations and listen to the beautiful traditional music we love, and congratulate one another on being in the club.
That’s not what we’re going to do though. We are going to be a church out there, in the streets, open and accessible to people who don’t go to church.
All week long, hundreds of volunteer ministers have been moving our church from Ridgely Road to Timonium and York Road. There is a giant sign on York Road proclaiming our presence and inviting the community to join us. We will have 4,000 chairs and who knows how many parking spaces (lots of them).
I visited yesterday afternoon and the place was abuzz with hundreds of people: children’s ministers rehearsing a delightful and vibrant children’s program we will offer during the liturgy; ops ministers cleaning and constructing and doing I know not what; hosts ministers and parking ministers receiving their instructions and finding their stations. Quite an operation. Today there are more preparations: sound and technology checks, music and liturgy rehearsals, and, of course, I need to get ready too.
If you’re coming, here’s what you can do to help us out:
1. Come early. We will have two services, at 9:30 and 11:30am (they’re identical), have no idea which will be more popular, so choose which one works best for you and come, but come early. We have planned a program before the Mass full of music and fun, beginning at 9 and again at 11, so you won’t be bored. But coming early is a tremendous help because new comers come late.
2. Park in the “Light Rail” parking lot on Deerco Road, behind the Cow Palace. This will make getting in and out easier for you. Our guests don’t know about this lot, so they will be coming in on York Road, which tends to get congested.
3. Choose seats on the sides and at the back, leave the best seats for our guests.
And one more thing: be really friendly to everyone. Let’s act like we believe what we’re gathering to celebrate.