As a part of TFC Sanctuary Choir, I was given the opportunity to help lead worship in this Easter morning. I was given that privilege three times. By the last service we were all fading. It was rather astounding that we were still able to belt out the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of the third service. While I definitely enjoyed the experience, recouping from waking up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning required some extended napping this afternoon.
After participating in the mournful services on Thursday and Friday, it was wonderful to see the sanctuary decked out in flowers and green living things. Having never participated in other Holy Week services before, I don't think I ever felt the full effect of Resurrection Sunday. The stripping of the altar on Thursday and the snuffing of the candle on Friday made the light and beauty and celebration of this day feel lighter, more beautiful and more joyful than ever before.
Also, since I am an avid people-watcher it was quite interesting to see the different characteristics of the three different congregations that we led in worhip today.
The service at 8:30 a.m. was full of people who have known each other for years and can call each other by name when they are passing the peace. Their congregational readings sounded more unified and many of the congregants had the more commonly said prayer memorized. Most of the people were older, retired folks or families with small children or both together (three, sometimes four generations seated together).
The 10:00 a.m. was probably the liveliest crowd, maybe because it was the fullest service. I considered saying they were the most joyful, but joy manifests itself in different ways, and I know that those 8:30 people were definitely full of joy. Most of the folks there at 10 were regular attenders, many of them people I would normally see at the 9 a.m. service. I think we did our best singing in this time slot, but it's hard to tell from inside the choir.
The 11:30 service was full of late-rising regular attenders and people who attend church only on special occasions. Several cell phones went off, more people had frowny faces, several women were wearing Easter bonnets, and lots of children didn't have practice in church manners. I was thankful for having been able to concentrate on John's sermon during the first service because I would have been completely distracted from it in the third.
As John was preaching, especially in the third service, I couldn't help but think how strange the Gospel must sound to those who attend church only once or twice a year. It reminds me that the very first church service I attended was Easter Sunday 1995. I don't remember what I felt that day, but I'm sure there was some awkwardness. Obviously, it didn't deter me from returning. I pray that some of the people who came for the Easter spectacle were touched by the preaching, the music, the joy of the morning and will choose to explore what following Christ really means.
These observations also caused me to be thankful for the little community I've found in the choir. I get to sit next to the same people every Sunday. We're all in the choir, so we automatically have something in common. I feel comfortable worshipping alongside them even when tears fill my eyes and I find it difficult to sing. I'm grateful to God for giving me this little slice of community. I wish it could last longer, but will continue to cherish the time I have left with them.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!! Alleluia.