This evening, I was asked to speak about ministry at our parish's Family Worship Night. I felt honoured. This is the text of that talk.
Good evening. I’m honored to be asked to speak about ministry. Why me? Well, I’ve been a part of music ministry in this parish for more than forty years. In the last year, I’ve also become involved in social justice and refugee sponsorship. So, I’ve been here a long time. How long? So long, I’ve been called the "church lady".
The first time was at the Co-op. As I chatted with the parent of a student, her four-year-old son interjected with, "Hey Mom, that’s the church lady." The second time, though, was in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii. My husband and I had just entered the gate to Diamond Head. As we made our way to the trail head, I heard someone yell from a car window nearby. I learned a long time ago to ignore loud sounds from car windows. Moments later, though, a van crept up alongside us as we walked. This time, the driver, head out of the window, yelled, "Hey, church lady, there’s someone in here that knows you and they want to give you a ride!" Turns out that relatives of our parishioners had seen me during liturgies they had attended in our parish with their family!
This church lady’s message this evening is about stepping up. It’s a message in five parts.
1. Yes, you can.
You already have everything you need to get involved right now. You don’t need special training or a particular skill of some kind. All you need is to say, like Samuel, "Here I am." Just show up, like you have tonight.
2. Think small.
You are already giving witness by being here tonight. One action. One decision. You don’t have to sign away your life or be in the public eye. You can smile and say hello to people you meet, honoring the God that is in them when you do that. You can attend church, and give witness that time for God is a priority. You can sing from the congregation or as part of a leader group, mow the grass, water plants, contribute to the Food Bank, help with the MACC community meals. Or all of the above, if you wish.
3. Expect some bumps.
I wish I could tell you that stepping out of your own world to lend a hand will be a smooth ride. But that hasn’t been my experience. When bumps occur, step back. Ask yourself: Do people have a point? Could I change something? What can I learn from this? When you’ve extracted the take-away, chalk up the experience and keep on doing. Service is not just something nice we can do. It’s our duty as Christians.
4. Yes, you must.
It’s not like stepping up is a choice, you know. Service is a duty. Yes, a duty. Why? Because we are baptized Christians. Because we are citizens of Canada. Because we have privilege. Every chance she had, my mother said to me, growing up: From those to whom more has been given, more will be expected. Those lines from Luke are worth hearing again: From those to whom more has been given, more will be expected. So, Yvette, she would say, "God gave you life, food, safety, two languages, education, books, music, and love, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?" The bar was set high and getting higher all the time. I’m so grateful to her for instilling in me the obligation to step up, because, and this is #5,
5. It’s worth it.
Ministry has been transformational. I am a different person because I do ministry. Think of it—me, a person with a small amount of musical knowledge and, according to my teachers, not much ability, got to do music with professionals (my husband, Elmer, Len Gadica, Len Varga, Paul Winichuk, Rob Dzubas). As a result, my own musical capability increased exponentially. I learned so much. Every day, the dedication and tireless efforts of people I get to work with in social justice and refugee sponsorship inspire me and keep me hopeful. I like to think I may have made a difference over the years. Really, though, I have learned so incredibly much more than I have given.
To conclude, let me say: The world needs you, every single one of you. Be what you want to see in the world. After all, as the Jewish saying goes, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
Yes, you can.
Expect some bumps.
Yes, you must.
It’s worth it.