We've been going through a fair amount of change over here at Lakebay Community Church. A few little things, a few bigger things, but enough that it all adds up. Last year we began a new ministry when we introduced the Alpha Course. At the beginning of this year we moved our church newsletter to an electronic format, and stopped mailing out 250 paper copies every month. Our Maundy Thursday service gave way to a Seder dinner this year. We produced a Stations of the Cross installation. We added a small orchestra to Christmas Eve and Easter.
This last Sunday brought about two large changes. First, we changed our schedule, moving everything up an hour. With Sunday School coming to a close, we decided to take advantage of these long summer day by holding morning worship at 9:30, instead of the usual 10:30. In addition, we stopped taking an offering. Not that we're no longer receiving people's tithes and offerings. We've just placed some donation boxes in the back of the sanctuary (we're calling them "Cheer Boxes," since 'the Lord loves a cheerful giver'), and are asking people to drop their tithes there, rather than passing a plate. And yes, we bit the bullet and are encouraging people to consider giving electronically, either through their own banks, or through www.networkforgood.org.
Change is hard a lot of the time. Even these changes haven't been completely smooth; a few people have been hurt, a few people have been scared, a few are worried that our church today isn't the same church we were a few years ago. Personally, I'm learning some lessons about leading through change, on listening to people who are uncertain, on hurting for people who are left out by new schedules, new technologies, on aching when change causes separation, and yet on leading through disruption, of following God's leading and trusting we're all in his hands. I'm naturally a peace-maker, one who wants to minimize stress and disruption so that all can live in peace and harmony. It's difficult to be one of the agents of stress and disruption causing stress and pain.
And yet I believe God is at work in our church, that he's leading us to days of expanded ministry and presence here on the Key Peninsula. I think we're digging up fallow ground, creating space and energy for new life ahead. I'm convinced God has had his hand on us up to this point, that we've been following faithfully, that these changes have been made with prayer and wise deliberation. And so we move ahead in faith and trust.
And if Sunday morning is any indication, the people of Lakebay have again proven their flexibility, their willingness to try something new, their willingness to follow the decisions of their leaders. Because by 8:45 people were pulling into the parking lot, by 9:30 the sanctuary was filling up, and instead of tired, grouchy faces I saw smiles and laughter and joy. I felt excitement. The singing was full and rich; I couldn't get them to sit down after releasing them for the morning greeting. It was good.
Oh, and for a moment I thought there was an additional blessing, that somebody had donated a $40,000 truck to our ministry. But no, it was simply a stolen truck somebody left in our parking lot Saturday night. Which gave us a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing and call the police, so it could be returned to its rightful owner.