We “tabernacled” with God Sunday morning in comfortable t-shirts and shorts at the tent of meeting as we began our season of outdoor worship spread out around the tent on our church campus East parking lot. A total of 141 people (doing an excellent job of wearing masks and socially distancing) glorified God in song, prayer, and Word from 8:30 am until 9:15 am.
The focus of our worship space was decorated in fine linen that was blue, purple, and crimson. Why those colors? In a word, the answer is “connection.”
On the Christian Church calendar we are in the long liturgical season of green called “ordinary time.” That season begins after Pentecost and lasts all the way to Advent. Advent is that transition time where we prepare to move from Ordinary Time to Extraordinary time – the Christmas season – celebrating the coming of Christ into our world. On a normal year, that long 26 week season of green called ordinary time passes almost without notice as our modern world transitions through end of school, summer break, back to school, and fun fall cycle activities.
But calendar year 2020 has had no “ordinary time.” Matter of fact, as I heard another person say, “we’re living through ANYTHING BUT ordinary time!”
That statement connected me to the old, old stories of our faith during the Exodus from Egypt. Led by God, the fledgling Hebrew people journeyed through the wilderness on their path to the promised land. There were many twists and turns. Often the people became their own worst enemy. But through it all, God sustained this people with bread from heaven called manna. It took a lot longer than they wanted it to take, but God’s Children finally did cross over the Jordan River into the promised land.
I sense we are on a similar journey.
So when it came time to decide how to decorate our outdoor space, it just seemed right to leave ordinary time (and it’s liturgical color of green) behind. Instead, the Lord’s Table and the sashes on the three crosses that define the focal point of our outdoor worship space are covered in fine linen using the colors God defined for the Tabernacle in the wilderness – blue, purple, and crimson.
And just like long ago, people are stepping forward to make this tabernacle in the wilderness a sustained reality.
We are already up to 37 people who have volunteered to assist with the tabernacle in the wilderness so that we can gather on good weather Sundays to glorify God in a way that minimizes risk of spreading Covid 19.
Like the ordering of the Levite roles long ago, we have six different service teams (in addition to musicians, audio technicians, and clergy) that are being staffed in a way so that people rotate and do not have to serve every Sunday. Those roles are a Decorating Team, a Chair Team, a Reader Team, a Hospitality Team, a Golf Cart Team, and a Move Team. The Move Team will require people willing to help physically move sound system equipment from the building to the Outdoor Worship Center at 7:30 am. We will need even more volunteers. If you wish to become part of a rotation, please call Christine Lewis at the church 770-487-6499.
As always, we continue to monitor Covid infection rates in our county. For now, this seems to be how we can do “gathered worship” in a way that minimizes risk. Sunday was truly an encounter of the Holy as the gathered children of God came to worship God together. It’s a day that I will never forget.
I want to thank everyone who made last Sunday happen – it’s a VERY LONG list of people. We have room to grow in this worship space. Our plan is to primarily keep this early morning service a traditional service. Talk to someone who was present. Come worship with us on those Sunday’s not threatened by early morning rain. Check our website (ptcumc.org) Saturday evening after 8 pm. We will indicate there if the service is on or off for a given Sunday.
Some sit under the tent but most sit between the tent and the primary platform. Our intention is you can spread out in every direction bounded by the four hospitality tables. If we get a bad weather day, our excellent online worship service is always available every week. The online and outdoor sermons are the same message.
Come ONLY IF you do not have Covid symptoms and are currently not involved in a Covid quarantine. Come with a mask willing to sit socially distant household to household. We have our blue folding chairs staged at the tent. You can bring your own chair, or simply walk to the tent and take your own chair from one of the 18 chair staging points around the tent to where you wish to sit out in the open. There are some volunteers present to help you place your chair if needed.
Worship is still the heartbeat of our faith. It is a connection to God. That heartbeat sustains us into the activities God guides us towards. It is good to proclaim that we are yet alive! Worship at home, or worship at the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Just find a way to worship so you too shout, “to God be the Glory!”