Having lived in Richmond for seven years now, many sights are now familiar to the eye. Even so I try to keep my eyes open to the beauty of this place – trees flowering in the spring and brightly colored in the fall, flowers of every hue, a varied terrain, and the diverse forms of four seasons. I still shake my head at times in amazement.
Last week Sarah Marsh, Larry Moffett, Sarah Hill, and I attended the annual gathering of our new denomination, the E.C.O. It’s still so new that my eyes are not at all accustomed to its sights. The whole of the gathering took place in a standard issue conference center in Dallas – no sight worth noting there. But the beauty of the gathering itself was eye-popping. Here’s how:
- In a two and a half day meeting, only four hours were spent doing business in the Synod and Presbytery meetings. The rest was all worship, teaching, networking, and fellowship. I found that striking because I was so used to the reverse portions for denominational gatherings.
- Our worship had passion, diverse artistic and musical forms, and an unapologetic, singular focus – God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That seems like a no-brainer, but for years I’ve been at denominational gatherings where Trinitarian language was carefully minimized or avoided. What a simple and profound beauty!
- Our speakers addressed such matters as: how to foster deep community by pursuing mission together, how grace can be central in relationships with sexually broken people, pointers on how to make covenant groups and church partnerships work, how a church culture can be changed from an inward to an outward focus, the messiness of engaging with people in need, how to partner with International Justice Mission for local and global engagement, and how to plan worship. Again, such topics seem like no brainers, but their beauty stood out to me in part because I had not seen such at this kind of gathering.
I have been a Presbyterian pastor for 33 years. But in this new ecclesiastical terrain I am finding beauty like I’ve never seen before. My eyes are popping.
Obviously not everyone gets to enjoy the beauty of life in Virginia. And truth be told, every place has its own kind of beauty. But I’m very grateful for the beauty of this place, where God has planted me. And I can say the same for our church’s new home in E.C.O. – it’s beautiful. Thank you Lord!