Today was one of those days I won't soon forget.
I knew it was coming.
I have been anticipating it for months.
I have had mixed feelings about it.
Sometimes I have been eager about what it would mean.
Sometimes I have wondered what I signed up to do!
I never expected that it would mark me in such a way as it did.
Today I was installed as Regional Moderator for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky. In all honesty, I viewed this installation as nothing more than a formality. I was to stand there and say "yes" to the questions asked of me. The real work begins now and that moment was just a ceremony, the last thing in a 3-day series of meetings and worship and time with "my people."
But then ...
Then I stood there at the front of Crestwood Christian Church, with my new friend and colleague to my left and a long-time friend and colleague to my right. With the others who we installed to the board today, I promised to do my best to fulfill this calling that has been extended to me. I committed myself to the work of the Region for these next 2 years.
As I looked across a room, I saw my own journey there.
I saw people who - just 4 years ago, at my first regional assembly - were not even "strangers" to me. They were just bodies in the pews. I had no idea that I would look them in the eye one day and call them beloved friends.
I saw teenagers and young people.
I saw trusted colleagues.
I saw mentors.
I saw saints whose mere presence have strengthened my ministry.
And probably more than half of who I saw, I could call by name.
I realized that in just 4 short years, I have gone from being a stranger in this denomination, to a trusted leader.
I saw in the eyes of those gathered today, a prayer of blessing on my (our) leadership.
I saw hope.
I came to understand that they are counting on us.
And they ground* me.
Once the installation was complete and the business session over, I had just 20 minutes before worship was to begin, and I was to lead communion. In a hurry and really just wanting a couple of minutes to regroup and think about what I might say, I walked to the back of the sanctuary to get my microphone and mentally prepare for worship.
I was greeted there in the narthex by a friend and fellow board member, who was - in that very moment - already composing an email to me and the rest of the board leadership. He said to me, "I can't tell you how excited I am to get to work with this team!" For 15 of my available 20 minutes, we just dreamed about what it could be. We tossed around ideas for better communication and deeper connectivity. We discussed how deeply this matters to us - both as professionals in the region and as people with a heart for the church.
Honestly, I didn't want those minutes to slip away.
I wanted to stay there.
I wanted to keep dreaming!
Because already in those minutes, I was growing* as both a minister and a leader.
I don't often get to preside at the table any more.
When I was on staff at FCC Paducah, I led in communion at least once a month, if not more.
Since we have moved to Central KY, the days are few and far between when I have the opportunity to invite any and all to come.
No matter how often I do it, I am moved every time.
I became a Disciple for a variety of reasons, but the central reason for me was the Table.
Disciples celebrate communion every Sunday, and I have come to depend on those moments to nourish my faith.
We are known for saying that "unity is our polar star," but for me it is the table. The table is that which roots me to my faith; it is what guides my decisions; it is what shapes who I am becoming.
In many traditions - including my own - the table is a somber, reflective moment. But today I was so overwhelmed by joy and hope and potential, that I found myself reminding the gathered community that we remember this table as a precursor to Jesus' crucifixion, but for the disciples it was a celebration! The Table for them was the Passover table - the celebration of God's deliverance from Egypt (their polar star)! I invited us all to the table to celebrate how God is overflowing* in abundance! And I offered them the bread and the cup in celebration of whose we are!
This is the way I want the next 2 years to go for us. I want us to be radically hospitable, driven by the celebration of the table, grounded in the community we love and serve, and deeply connected to one another. I want my leadership of this biennium to be remembered as a time when the Christian Church in KY was bold and creative! I want this to be the time when we strip off the masks we hide behind; when we find our courage; when we find our voice to proclaim to the world that God is in our midst and the Kin-dom is now.
We have a lot to do.
It's time to get to work!
*The theme for the 2016 Regional Assembly of Kentucky was "Grounded, Growing, Overflowing." In the moments of today, I experienced all of those.