As part of the pastoral staff of a multi-site church, my energy is focused at the campus I currently call ‘home’, which is a good 40 minute drive from the location in Powhatan where everything started. I served there for all of my tenure at PCC until a year or so ago, when I shifted my focus and opened my heart to Riverside. Tonight, we were back where it all started, leading a Good Friday service for the entire church, at Powhatan.
There’s always been an awkwardness for me about our Powhatan Campus. It’s big – the room itself feels mammoth. The stage is too high; the floors too ‘white’. The room itself never sat well with my soul. There are underlying issues for me, emotional buttons that were pushed when we moved into the building several years ago that made it difficult for me to transition into what was then new space.
I love our church. I love the campus. But I’m just getting real here, and confessing that something about it – even after all these years, all these events and services – something just never felt right.
But sometimes, things change. When you least expect it, you open your eyes and realize that something big has shifted.
It is as if during the hour we spent in our first ever Good Friday service tonight, two mighty hands gripped the axis of my world and gave it a good twist.
The platform was awash in color this evening; a large wooden cross was the focal point. Slight haze (a new thing for us; some folks have exclaimed, WHAT IS THAT SMOKY STUFF?) diffused the light and set gentleness shifting thoughout the entire room. The musicians on the platform brought, to a (wo)man, excellence in preparation and presence. The level of trust, for me, was exceedingly high.
There was scripture and singing and music and a message. Through it all, I could see a crowd of faces – many familiar, some unknown. People I consider part of my church ‘family’ who worship at other campuses; my eyes lit on them and my heart leapt. There’s Jamie, in the front row! It’s Tricia! There’s Becky – there’s Warren and Denise and Darlene! Faces of the family that has embraced me at Riverside were everywhere; the campus pastor in me swelled with pride to see our folks attending and serving.
I sat behind the piano with a familiar view; because my primary musical training was as an accompanist, there is a strong sense of certainty when I am serving the leadership of another artist. Brian Hughes doesn’t stand and sing his messages, but our partnership allows me to accompany him in the same fashion as the best vocalists I have worked with.
The elements of the service were powerful and emotionally gripping for me. People sang; they were with us, and we were all together in the best sense, a tribe of folks with common purpose, experiencing a fresh wind blowing through an ancient story. Art was being created simultaneoulsy in that same space, as gifted visual creatives worked on sketches and graphics behind the crowd. Bread and juice were offered and taken, the sacrament of communion in the shadow of death that was ripe with meaning.
It felt large, and significant. Communal, with strength in the power of the songs and the sound and the presence of all of us together. I sought out chords on that beautiful baby grand piano (I miss it so!) and the resonance settled deep in my chest, big pounding bass notes that carried the cries of my soul.
And yet; the moment that carried weight for me tonight was small; insignificant to most. I doubt that anyone noticed, or paid one bit of attention. Yet it marked the moment and connected the entire experience for me in a way that was unexpected and yet perfectly appropriate, as if it had been part of the plan from the very beginning.
We allowed people to linger, to move out of the room slowly. The band played as they moved toward the doors; at a certain point, we settled the song and effectively ended the service. I looked up to see folks milling around the back of the room – the looked at the art, they added prayers and scripture to the board. My husband had been sitting at the very back of the room, and I saw him make his way to the platform.
He’s coming to say, ‘Great job, baby…the service was awesome. You played awesome. Good job.’
He came up the stairs and moved toward the piano, where I still sat soaking in the afterglow of the music and the time of worship. I pivoted away from the keyboard, still on the bench, and smiled.
He sat beside me, and I noticed his cupped hand was holding something. He hooked his finger around mine and placed a piece of bread into my palm; he unfolded his fingers and I saw two tiny glasses of juice balanced in his hand. He looked down, a motion of prayer. I pressed my head into his shoulder and closed my eyes for a moment.
He placed the piece of bread in his mouth and I followed suit. The juice came next, even before I swallowed the bread; it soaked the dry crust that was still in my mouth, and I held still just for a moment, not rushing the odd act of remembrance that marks the life and death of the One we follow.
We sat together on the piano bench, still, fingers entwined. It was brief; I was, after all, at work, and there were people to see and conversations to have.
But in that moment all of the apprehension and the joy fused into this one thing, something that is so integral to who we are and how we treat one another, something so basic and necessary to our humanity, something that reminded me, tonight, that I am not who I used to be but moving, always, into a better version of my self.
I was seen.
He remembered me.
In the midst of everything that was happened, the man who pledged his life to mine thought of me. He understood that while we helped to direct others to communion, we ourselves did not partake. He saw that I was unfinished, undone.
He noticed me, and he brought me what I needed.
And that right there is the baseline, the bottom line, the perfect metaphor for all of this Jesus business, the reason for the sacrifice and the remembrance and the way our humanity gets all bunched up with our pursuit of holiness. It is the essence of the sacred thing about being human, and why the Jesus story fits our need so very well.
He sees us.
There’s a biblical concept about marriage that says a man ought to love his wife like Christ loved the church (and gave himself up for her). There is a deeply resonant connection with how we are when we are at our best in relationship with one another, and how God intended for us to love and serve and support each other all along. A deep, honoring friendship; the covenant commitment of marriage. Both have the potential to reveal spiritual truths about our humanity, and the possibility of encountering the divine in a profound way.
He noticed me, and he brought me what I needed.
You, friend, are noticed. And what you need has been provided.
Deepest blessings to you on this Friday that is, ultimately, quite good, indeed.