This week, while many of us are thinking about fireworks and flags, I find myself thinking about things more particular to our church. I keep thinking of "thank yous" and "welcomes."
Welcome, Nathan Hight! Nathan is our new Director of Contemporary Music, and I am so very excited to have him lead our band and congregation in praise for the first time at The Well this Sunday.
Many of you know that Nathan grew up at FUMC, and it is our great joy to have him and his family join our church family. They certainly aren't wasting any time in joining in! This Sunday, Nathan's wife April will be filling in as a vocalist, and their two children - Samuel and Abigayle - will be leaving after the 8:30 service to go on our Youth Mission Trip! I know that you will want to give all of the Hights (and their two foster children who will be in our nursery) the warmest possible welcome.
I had the chance to sit in on part of our Praise Band practice this last Thursday, and I can tell you that you will want to say you were a part of Nathan's first worship service with us. Nathan brings a prayerful heart, a passionate voice, and an imaginative mind that will will resonate with everyone in The Well and help us be open to whatever gifts God has instore for our future.
I can write these welcome with an equal measure of gratitude because I believe the Holy Spirit has been guiding our church through this entire transition, and I believe God has given us just the right person to build upon the grace we have already found at in our contemporary service. I am incredibly grateful for all that The Well service has become, and I have a particular person to thank for that.
I can't stop praying "thank you, God" for Paul Hinton, our Minister of Operations, who has been doing terrific work for our church that is bearing fruit in all manner of visible places. Our newly grassed parking lot is almost ready for use; our prayer garden is "the best it's looked in 7 years" as one church member told me; around our church you might see the paper placeholders that are marking the spots where we will soon have new directional signs to make our visitors feel immediately welcome. In order to pull all this off, Paul has worked tremendous hours above and beyond the call of duty and brought together remarkable teams of volunteers. I am so very grateful to work alongside someone (well, lots of someones) who is so profoundly dedicated to the mission of the church. Thank you, Paul.
We knew when Paul took on this new role that it was too much to ask him to do it alongside his work as Contemporary Worship Leader, and, indeed, last Sunday was Paul's last as the worship leader in The Well. Which stirs up a whole new set of "thank yous" for me. For more than nine years, Paul has been a torchbearer for the vision of The Well, and he has made that vision audible and visible through countless rehearsals and worship services. He has been instrumental in crafting that service as an experience of God that carries a unique sense of both relevance and reverence. This Sunday, as Paul is driving our Youth Mision Team to Lineville, AL we will be gathered to praise God in ways that Paul made possible. Once he's back, Paul will still be helping with the audio and visuals in contemporary worship, and he told me this week that he's looking forward to having a chance to visit our other services and worship with so many other people he knows an loves. Thank you, Paul
Perhaps, amid the flags and fireworks, it is appropriate to be thinking about thanks and welcome. Because ultimately, in all these gifts, I aim to thank and welcome God into our midst. Both thanks and welcome are acts of worship. This Sunday, while everyone else talks about freedom, let's show the world what freedom is for - let's be free enough to worship.
Thank you Paul; welcome, Nathan. And praise to God who has made us all for the glory of worship. I can't wait to gather with you, and offer the free gift of praise together in all our services.
See you Sunday.