Yesterday was the big day! As I said during our first service yesterday, we didn’t become a church yesterday when we held our first public gathering. We became a church back in January when a group of people began to come together to follow God into the unknown to learn to love and serve the people around us in Flint, Michigan. The church is a people after all, right? Well, yesterday was significant because we gathered to enter into a weekly rhythmic of worship. It’s tough to find the words to describe something that is so meaningful. Especially when this something that you are trying to explain has been a dream that has been in the works for nearly 10 years. But I’ll try…
The one word that keeps coming to mind when I think about how our first service went is comfortable. From set up to tear down everything felt very natural. I didn’t feel the need to make anything happen. It didn’t seem hard. There was an excitement in the air because new things are, well, exciting, but I think comfortable sums it up nicely.
Set Up and Music
When we showed up at 8a.m. in the morning to get everything set up everyone who was there chipped in without a ton of direction and just did what needed to be done. With the help of the Flint Local 432’s regular sound guy, Tim, the band got set up and was ready to go within 20 minutes. We decided last minute to project the words of the songs we were singing for worship (and the PowerPoint that went along with the sermon) on the wall to the left of the stage instead of on the giant screen that would have came down in front of the stage and obscured the players from the shoulders up. It was a last minute decision that didn’t occur to us at rehearsal a couple days earlier but when we showed up in the morning it was pretty obvious that it would be a great solution. I think the result was fantastic. First, it allowed the musicians who wanted to stand to stand without worrying about being cut in half by the screen. Secondly, and I think most importantly, the screen being off to the side changed the focal point of the people in the congregation. Folks looked toward the screen and I think it made it easier to focus on the words in order to collect ourselves in worship.
After we set up the band, we quickly put the chairs and tables in place and did a run through of the set list for the service. This gave our tech person, Sarah, a chance to run the the powerpoint and get her familiar with the songs. After the band wrapped up, another crew of people showed up to get the coffee brewing, set up the kids area, and pass out donuts to the bikers who were in town for the big Bikes on the Bricks festival Downtown.
We bought a fancy new airpot brewer to make our coffee so Jay and I had to spend some time making sure we knew how to work it and where we were going to store it but we managed to get some decent coffee made to offer our people. We have decided to use ceramic mugs and have someone take them home each week to run them through the dishwasher in order to cut down on waste. Lisa and I went to the Salvation Army last week and picked out a bunch of the most random mugs we could find. The mugs were a nice conversation piece for the morning. We joked that instead of having people who come and sit in the same pew week after week we’ll have people that live and die by the coffee mug that they drink from. We’re also working with a local coffee roaster who will be roasting fresh coffee beans for us each week so we will be supporting a local business and have great coffee to share with our people.
Since the space we are meeting in is essential one big room with a couple restrooms attached we are trying to figure out ways to have kids stay with us in the service that allows the adults to focus and participate in the service without having to worry about their children being a disruption. We decided to set up a table and some floor mats up off to one side of the room to give kids an area where they can draw, play with playdough, or do puzzles. A couple parents and Casey, one of our college student, sat down on the mats to play with the kids throughout the service. A few of the bigger kids passed headphones back and forth while watching a movie on a computer. The kids seemed to really enjoy the atmosphere and made themselves quite at home. During the service, the kids were amazing. For nearly and hour and a half they hung out with us doing their thing. Hopefully they will enjoy themselves as much next week as we continue to explore different ways to engage them in what we are doing as a church. We’re thinking about getting a bunch of tambourines and shakers so they can dance and jam with us during musical worship. Lisa and I saw this done at TheStory in Sarnia and it was awesome to see the kids involved in worship. Besides we don’t currently have a percussionist, so what the heck, right?
Since the big Bikes on the Bricks thing was going on Downtown we decided to find away to engage in what was already happening around us. So we ordered 8 dozen donuts from Donna’s Donuts and gave them away to bikers who were setting up for the day. We didn’t do this as a way to have an opportunity to invite them to church but just to tell them thanks for coming to the city. This seemed very organic. As soon as the donuts showed up, a bunch of our people paired up, grabbed some of the kids and went walking around on Saginaw Street passing out donuts. I think everybody had fun and it was a simple way to connect with our neighbors for the day.
By 10:20a.m. the rest of the folks who were joining us for the service had arrived. People mingled, drinking coffee and chatting until we got started at 10:30. The service was pretty simple. We started with a song and welcomed people to make themselves comfortable while we sang songs together in order to engage in the same activity together as a community and to quiet our hearts to focus on whatever God might have for us. We sang a couple more songs and Carrie came up to read from the Psalms. We played one more song and then Jay gave some brief announcements before moving into the sermon.
We decided that we wanted to invite people to be an active part of the service by asking some questions and giving some time to reflect by writing in community journals. I asked some simple, straightforward questions throughout the service to give the congregation an opportunity to share ideas out loud as we talked about the idea of “following”. We talked about the different ways of coming to know someone or something, different kinds of things people follow in our culture, and what is required of those who want to follow someone or something. People who wished to share simply chimed in with answers. I think this questioning seemed to help people stay engaged in the message. Then, toward the end of the message, I introduced the idea of the community journals. We bought some simple composition notebooks and pens and passed them out to people around the room. I explained that the idea behind the journals was to give people a way to process and wrestle with what we were talking about in a quiet reflective way. I instructed them to keep their entries anonymous and asked them to leave the books at church so they can grow with the community. Sometimes I’ll give specific prompts for people to respond to during our services but other times I won’t mention them at all. But the plan is to make them available week to week to be used however they help the church process; taking notes, writing prayers, drawing pictures, doodling, asking questions, etc. I gave a few prompts and gave folks a 5-7 minutes of quiet to jot down some thoughts. After the journaling, I gave a few closing remarks and closed the service with a video. After the benediction people sprung into action helping us get the space back into shape for the next punk rock show. Tear down was swift and organized. I think having been a part of the set up and tear down crew at Wildwind, our mother church, for so many years really helped the process to go smoothly.
The buzz in the air was thick, at least it was for me. I know that I’ve given a brief record of concrete details here and while that might give people an idea of what we did, it doesn’t really contain the feeling of the experience. It was a great morning. The people that were with us (which included our initial core team, some friends from Wildwind, and a handful of people who wanted to see what we were all about before deciding how/if they wanted to be involved in a more direct way) seemed to be engaged and I’ve since received a lot of positive feed back in the last 36 hours.
Several new people informed me that they would be back! Another person wrote and thanked me for making the experience comfortable for introverts and extroverts alike. And yet another person made a point to tell me how refreshing the service was and how the content has already provided them with opportunities to share some of the ideas they heard at Dwellings with people at their workplace. Good stuff is happening here. Stuff I couldn’t have planned. We’re just gonna show up and see what happens next, listen for what God is up to in our midst, and then show up again the next week…and the week after that…and the week after that. So good? Maybe you can join us sometime.
If you are interested in hearing my sermon (lo-fi) from Sunday you can do so here: http://www.dwellingsflint.com/sermons/follow-me/
Thanks for sharing in our story. Blessings.