My First Connect Experience

I arrived at the church early to begin my preparations.  Rick was already there deciding to stay the entire day to avoid multiple trips across the river.  He had already changed the sanctuary around as we had discussed in the last couple planning meetings.  It was more dramatic than I had pictured.

At the center was a table where we would come to have communion.  To the left of that a bench with a collection of votive candles.  There was a coloring station with drawings of what looked to me like snowflakes, not knowing any better.  On the opposite side of the room there were pillows and a rug that looked very inviting.  The chairs were also re-arranged to give the service a different feel.  It all felt very comfortable.

My new friends Rhonda and Anthony Frisbie arrived shortly with Rhonda's keyboard in tow.  They immediately asked about the audio inputs that were available for use as there was some question as to if all three were working.  I reassured them that they did work so any of them could be used.  "Wait," I thought to myself, "just yesterday I took apart one of the mic cables to see how we could relocate the wires and never put it back together!"  As Rhonda and Anthony were setting up the keyboard I frantically tried putting the mic cable back together.  I got it reassembled enough so that it wouldn't completely fall apart and plugged it into the mixer (keeping the extra pieces so that I could do a better job later).  "I hope they don't need to use that one," I thought.  Thankfully they didn't.

As Rhonda was rehearsing and I was going over the visuals I noticed someone had walked in the front of the church and was standing in the gathering area.  I didn't recognize who it was at first but as I walked toward her I recognized it was my friend Kristie.  I had chatted with Kristie earlier in the day via Facebook and she told me that she thought she would come.  I was very happy to see that she did come and we talked for a bit catching up on each other's lives.  I reflected on how God had connected us that day.

Rick met Kristie and I in the gathering area and invited us into the sanctuary to pray with Rhonda before the service.  We all held hands and Rick led us into prayer.  We prayed for blessings on the service, all the preparations that went into it, and for the people that would come seeking connections.  It was a beautiful prayer and holding hands brought an even greater sense of connectedness between us.

More people slowly started arriving.  I was feeling a lot of nervous energy as I kept rehearsing the service in my head all the while not knowing exactly what to expect myself.  That nervousness subsided some when I saw my family arrive including my brother Troy and sister-in-law Tracey who I had invited earlier in the week.  Tracey and I had a good long conversation over the phone about all we had been doing and what our hopes were for the Connect service.  She said she would try to come and drag my brother with her.  She also brought her nephew Ryan who she said this was his first time to church.

Rick gave me the signal that he was ready to start and I wound down the music I had been playing from my computer.  I didn't count how many people were at the service but all of the rows were just about filled except for the ominous front rows of course.  Rick opened with a brief introduction of the service and then we had some community time.  Rick broke the ice with asking us to share what we remembered about our first school teacher.  I could still picture my kindergarten teacher, although I can't remember her name now.  I remembered her as a tall, older gray-haired lady standing over me very authoritatively (she wasn't smiling).  Rhonda then got the service started opening with the song "Open the Eyes of My Heart" by Paul Baloche.  I immediately recognized the song so I tried to focus on praising God while not forgetting I had a job to do.

Overall I think the service went off without a hitch.  There were some moments of slight awkwardness that we will have to adjust for but I think that can be expected for a first service.  Rhonda's gift of music was amazing and I thought the visuals added extra meaning throughout the service without too much distraction.  At the end of his reflection message Rick asked us to do some word association with the phrase "spiritual journey".  Lots of people shared.  My word was "struggle" which represented the sometimes difficult struggles we have with our faith and with our lives.

The prayer stations, for me, were particularly meaningful too.  After communion we had opportunity to participate at the prayer stations or meditate on our own with a visual on the screen for reflection.  There was a line at the candles so I chose the coloring station.  The thought that carried us through the prayer time was "To be first in God’s world is to be last in the eyes of our world; strength in God’s world begins with humility."  I reflected again on my own spiritual journey and particularly the struggles I initially had in sharing my faith with others.

After the the service ended I was glad to see that people stayed longer for more fellowship.  That told me that we had been successful in creating an atmosphere in which people felt comfortable.  I hope that people found the service meaningful and were able to connect spiritually to God, each other, and themselves.

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