Surprised by joy

October 28, 2022

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:13

I have a story to tell, and a confession to make.

One of my Woodstock colleagues and I were invited to give a presentation to the Woodstock Rotary Club about the Woodstock Ministers’ Alliance. The eight congregations that are active participants in the Alliance have 1,524 combined years of ministry in Woodstock. We talked about the community worship services we provide for Advent, Lent, and Easter Sunrise; the Vacation Bible School we provide for Woodstock children and youth; the various ministries that our congregations provide to the needy of the community such as food pantries, thrift stores, preschools; and space for groups like AA, NA, and Take Off Pounds Sensibly. We also provide financial support for housing and fuel assistance through partnerships with the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter and the Woodstock Police.

We invited questions and comments after the presentation. One blew me away. A man said, “You have such joy and hope.”

Now for the confession. Pastors, myself included, are not always hopeful about the future of the church. It isn’t the church that had overflow crowds, that was the hub of social life in the community, that could count on regular attendance on Sundays and often Wednesday evenings as there was no competition with youth sports and non-church activities, and that had plenty of human and financial resources. It is not unusual for clergy to lament how things have changed.

And yet. He saw something within us that was grounded in hope and joy. I asked a member following the meeting what the man might have seen in us that I didn’t see. The answer, “you are working together to find solutions, not just problems.”  Sometimes we don’t see the evidence of Spirit in our lives, just like we don’t see the tag that is hanging out of a blouse, or the lettuce in our teeth unless someone points it out or we look in the mirror. It was a mirror moment that reminded me of whose I am.

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. God is the source of hope. I am grateful that someone could see that in us. ~ Anne

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