...are the ones that make the biggest difference



The 30 Hour Famine has come and gone, as has my internet fast. I did pretty well with the latter - only slipped up a few times while I was looking for something work related; "I can skim one blog while that thing downloads, can't I?"

The 30HF also went well. Of the 26 kids who signed up, we had about 20 that actually came, which was a good turnout for my church. Friday night started out well, with some prayer, some time for the kids to do some private reflection and a good discussion about why we were doing the Famine. But then things moved towards chaos. The games Worldvision included in their 30HF packet ended up being a bunch of craziness and did not have any that could include kids with disabilities. I have 2 girls with problems. One, who signed up last week, does pretty well but is limited in her mobility. The other is on crutches after hip surgery and only called me the night before to let me know she was coming, which did not leave me any time to plan alternate games. By about 10pm, things were out of hand and the kids had really lost the focus of why we were there. So I popped in a movie and sat in sullen frustration hoping that Saturday would be better and wondering why I ever thought this would be a good idea. I prayed about it - a lot - but still had little hope things would be better.

And I was wrong. Saturday was excellent! We started fundraising in the morning and raised over $500 in our door-to-door blitz. We were all back at the church by noon-ish and I let the kids have some free-time. After an hour, they were all having a good time and were pretty laid back, so I let them have another hour instead of using any more of the Worldvision games. At 2, we played bunko, which all the kids got into. We cleaned up from 3-4, and at 4, one of the senior highers led some time in worship - though that was kind of a spur of the moment thing and we could have prepared better for it. After he was done, we celebrated communion and I gave a little homily about what it is, why we do it, the significance of Jesus as our Passover lamb and how we should approach it. Though I had probably not given it much thought before I became interested in Orthodoxy, I now believe only believers in Christ should partake in communion - how can someone who doesn't believe in what Jesus did on the cross faithfully "remember" that sacrifice? I'm not sure how my church stands on it, but I assume they are open to non-believers participating out of concern about alienating the "unchurched." Anyways, a junior high boy who had come with a friend came up with everyone else and took communion. I learned later that this boy was not previously a Christian and that his host-friend thought he may have accepted Christ - which I was overjoyed with! To go from Friday night, when I went to bed frustrated & upset, to a beautiful, reverential communion celebration where a kid may have come to faith in Christ - obviously God is faithful, even if I am not. But, this has made for some interesting thinking over the last couple of days, which I'll share in another post.

After communion, parents started arriving with their pot-luck meals and the kids were positively salivating waiting to get started. I had asked parents to RSVP with me so I would know how many were coming, but only a few did. We ended up having probably 10-12 sets of parents show up with all kinds of dishes, including some food we had ordered just to be on the safe side. I told the kids to eat slow at first, but they didn't listen. Its hard to explain, but all I can say is that with the families coming together and the way God turned things around from Friday night, it was just a joyous occasion. The fast/feast cycle of the traditional church honestly never made much sense to me. Until Saturday, that is. The fellowship, the laughter, the feeling of intense community - it was a wonderful, amazing time. This is what it means to be the church - to share struggles, pain, frustration, to celebrate Christ, coming together at His table, to thank God for his blessings and to offer it all back up to him in joyful praise. This is the experience that sustained the church in times of persecution, that drew people in even though they knew it could very well cost them their lives. And I want more of it; more for myself, more for these kids and more for this church-body. We have lost a true sense of ecclesia, of being the Body, and we desperately need to recover it.


Karl Thienes said...

"The fast/feast cycle of the traditional church honestly never made much sense to me. Until Saturday, that is."

I really look forward to Lent for this very reason....the stunning God-centeredness of the many services, the communal potlucks several times per week, the intensity of the season.....

Glad to hear it went well.

Nathan said...

How do things work the other parts of the year, Karl?

Karl Thienes said...

"How do things work the other parts of the year, Karl?"

With the 4 major Fasts, the 12 major Feasts, the patronal feast of the parish, and the various mid-week minor feasts and celebrations, there really is this atmosphere all year long. Just when you leave one fast, the feast arrives. And when the feast is over, it is time to prepare for the next! As Fr. Alexander Schmemann says, "we are suspended between each Eucharist" in a constant cycle of preperation, celebration, and back again.

Lent is just different in degree, not in kind.

alana said...

I agree with what Karl said...