My church had a Faith Alive conference last weekend and it was wonderful. Faith Alive is a lay-led ministry that travels the United States leading conferences for various parishes. My church is a fairly large Episcopal church, so the largest Faith Alive team arrived on the scene last weekend. The team consisted of almost 200 people, over half from outside the state of Texas. They come at their own expense to lead so that the entire congregation can participate in all activities.
Episcopals are widely known for their liturgy and traditional worship, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with their version of a “revival.” Let me tell you, these Episcopals really know how to embrace more contemporary worship and the Holy Spirit was all over that weekend.
Friday night began with wonderful music and testimonies by the Faith Alive team members. Afterward, there was a small group where they asked what we felt the church was lacking… and they really wanted to know. Then they asked what was good about the church. They took notes the whole time and those ideas and notions were presented to us on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday morning, we met in homes. There were 70 groups, I think, with 10-12 people each. Most of the people were from my neighborhood, with one lady living about a block away. We had a time of prayer and reflection and sharing. It was a wonderful time. I hadn’t heard people open up like that in a group of strangers in a long time.
Afterward, we went back to the church where the women and men each had separate luncheons. I still didn’t really know anybody, so I sat with one of the morning’s group leaders from San Antonio. She was a lovely older woman (who told me she was convinced I was destined for a long and happy life) … well, most of the women were significantly older than I was. There were a few from the group they consider “young marrieds,” but the event was largely attended by the older generation of the church. On one hand, that made me sad, but on the other, being one of the youngest people in the room makes you a target. Let me explain.
Three ladies who have been friends for a long time sat down with us at our table. Sweet, sweet ladies who probably had kids near my age. After more Faith Alive team member testimonies, we broke up into groups of four around the table. These ladies listened to me while I talked about my struggles fitting in at the church. It’s an affluent church and there aren’t many activities for women after 5 pm because most of the women don’t work outside the home. Many activities are poorly publicized and I didn’t know about them (which was addressed Sunday afternoon). I didn’t want to go to the singles’ class because the focus of my life is not about my singleness and though singles groups try not to do this, they tend to gravitiate toward that focus just because all of the people in the class are single.
These ladies took my name and phone number and every time I saw them that weekend, they hugged me and told me they were going to find me a place. Later that evening at another small group, I was with two more older ladies and a gentleman who sought me out Sunday afternoon to make sure I was getting plugged in. One of the ladies volunteers and is putting small groups together.
At each meeeting or event, I knew I was in the right place. God ordained it all. Sunday morning, I sat with two Faith Alive leaders and they prayed with me before I left. Sunday afternoon, all the ideas being bounced around was exciting. The words, “Contemporary Worship,” were uttered. It was very exciting.
We split up into groups to discuss all the ideas. I passed over the small group one because they were going to discuss leading small groups and I’m not at that place yet. I was assured by one of the ladies I’d met that she’d let me know all about them when they form. So, I went to discuss the state of the youth program, which is suffering. The group was made up of very frustrated (understandably) and concerned parents who have seen the decline of the youth program and wonder what the future holds. I felt a little out of place, because I had no complaints (yet lots of ideas nobody was ready to hear) and it was obvious to me that until a youth pastor is hired, the program will remain directionless. I know this ministry is on the heart of the clergy and it will be exciting to see what will happen when someone steps in to lead the youth. After someone is in place I would feel comfortable volunteering. Until then, I would be in something that is spinning its wheels and I can’t do that right now. Just about everything I am into right now has my own wheels spinning. I don’t need to add to it, no matter how noble the cause.
All in all, it was a good weekend and I see glimpses of doors opening where I could give back. That was a wonderful feeling.