I made one huge and exhilarating leap on Sunday. A leap of faith in myself and in being called to ministry. I lead the worship service at my church and preached for my very first time ever!!
As I said to Valerie, it was quite a daunting and nerve-wracking idea to lead worship for the first time in front of my home congregation, having no experience or training in preaching, without so much as a bible study course under my belt as far as formal education goes. When she first asked me about it, I hemmed and hawed in alarm. She tapped her fingernails on the table, finally declaring "so...I'll take that as a yes." Ah my dear friend, how well she knows me! I almost always have an initial moment of doubt when faced with a challenge, and hang suspended in a place of insecurity, before realizing well duh, I can do this. (Or sometimes I just decide that no way am I letting my fears get the better of me, I have to at least try to rise to whatever the challenge is!) So she just jumped over my moment of doubt, knowing full well what my answer was going to be.
I feel with my whole heart that God is calling me to this, so I just needed to trust in that and trust in myself. And I knew I would be surrounded by people who love and believe in me - Dave, Moira, Mom, my sister Lynn and her partner Bruce, my niece, and my faith family. Sara had to work so wasn't able to be there, which was unfortunate.
Valerie wasn't there either, she was in Newfoundland visiting her sister. A week or so ago, I must confess I was rather relieved that she was away - felt like too much pressure preaching for the very first time in front of a minister with 20+ years of experience under her belt. I imagined how naive and infantile my efforts would surely seem to her. But the other day I realized, wait a minute...she herself is making quite a leap of faith too, just by her very act of asking me to lead worship, from her pulpit, in her absence. If I botched the job, she would probably be the one bearing the brunt of the criticism, and having to listen to the Spiritual Oversight folks complaining "what were you thinking asking her to preach?" And my heart also spoke up, reminding me she is not a person who would come to sit in judgement, expecting me to be polished and perfect my first time out...she would have simply been there with love and support for her best friend. So by Sunday, I was really wishing she could share in this momentous occasion with me. I got a happy surprise Sunday morning when she called from Newfoundland to see how I was doing, to say she had no doubts whatsoever that all would go well, and to let me know she would be thinking of me the whole time I was worshipping. It meant a lot to me to know she was with me in spirit, if not in person.
Dave and I went a bit early to church, so I could get the headset sound turned on, and just be there early enough to settle myself and not feel like I was rushing around. I followed the steps Mike (one of our volunteer sound guys) had shown me back in June before I went on vacation, but - argh! - no sound was forthcoming. I probably could have managed without it, although it would have taken a concerted effort on my part to remember to project my voice, simply because I am not used to doing so. Mike was on vacation, but to my surprise, he popped in for a few minutes to get me up and running - what a thoughtful act!
Our organist arrived, followed by a couple ladies who were greeting at the door that morning...then the congregation began to trickle in, and a few choir members appeared...but still no sign of our choir director, who was the one who had picked the piece for our Ministry of Music. At quarter to ten (service began at 10), I asked our organist if he would play an instrumental in the Music Ministry spot instead. No problem, that he could do, neither of us were frazzled by this turn of events. But a minute later, our director finally arrived, gathered us together in the chapel where we practice, ran us through the piece a couple times, and we were all set. One of the choir members called out "Hey Reverend Anne, are you all ready for this?" Hahaha, I laughed, indeed I was! I was feeling only good nervousness at this point (thank God!) Oops, it was a couple minutes past ten...time to head in to the sanctuary!
Dave brought our dvd-cam and recorded the service...minus a couple minutes mid-sermon when he had to change the DVD, and a few bits and pieces throughout as he took a quick break to let the blood flow back into his wrist! Hadn't occurred to me beforehand, but I imagine it would get rather tedious holding a dvd-cam for a solid hour. It actually worked out well though, since a full uninterrupted service would have been too long to upload onto youtube anyway...so I've broken it up into separate clips based on where he paused during filming.
And now - drum roll, please - here, for your viewing pleasure, is my leap into the world of leading worship. (The sound was fine in church, but was very low while watching the videos on my laptop, so you might need to turn up the volume.)
Our Call to Worship
Our Opening Prayer, followed by First Reading, Colossians 2:6-19, read by my lovely and talented Mom ♥
Second Reading, Luke 11:1-13, as read by me, replete with uncharacteristic mistakes - am normally a much smoother reader - and a little intentional editing at the end. In the NSRV bible, the final verse (13) technically was: 'If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit* to those who ask him!’...I left out the who are evil bit since I don't, in fact, believe we are inherently evil, and also replaced heavenly Father with God since the patriarchal male image of God doesn't speak to me.
Ministry of Music
Minute for Mission, a story from the United Church of Canada website about an event commemorating the deportation of the Acadians (more info here). Immediately following this story, our Offering was received, but Dave took a break from filming during that section. Moira and my niece took up the offering.)
Prayers of the People, a Mi'qmaw prayer that was part of the above commemorative service, as read by my beautiful Moira ♥
Closing Hymn, Benediction, Choral Blessing, notice that I'd had enough of the headset by the time we got to the choral blessing!
This was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. It was, in every sense of the word, awesome!! My heart sang and my soul soared throughout, it just felt right. Evidently, as my sister told me later, I glowed! (Although that doesn't come across in the video, alas!) Everyone else really seemed to have enjoyed the service too, judging from the wonderful comments I got afterward. I didn't think to count heads, but Mom estimated about 40 people in attendance, plus choir members, and that sounds about right. According to Mom and Lynn, even the buzz behind my back was positive, which is always lovely to hear! :) The only negative comment I got was by email Sunday afternoon, from a woman in our congregation who is one of those people we all know who feel it their duty to be critical and seem compelled to always find some minor thing to criticize. For reasons unknown to me, this particular woman also seems to feel entitled to act as the voice of our church family so her note had a condescending, officious tone as well. (Valerie, I've no doubt you will know precisely of whom I speak - rest assured I simply deleted her note without replying and moved on!)
What a blessing that my first time of leading worship was so uplifting and overwhelmingly positive - thank you God!!