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Outstanding — part 1 in a series

July 3, 2017

During the applause she told me, “Remember, it was the church that won this award, not you.”

We were onstage in front of The Southern Illinois Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, representing Haley Chapel UMC. We were holding a plaque that included the line, Outstanding Small Church of The Conference.

Also known on our volleyball team shirts as The Bluff City Cathedral, Haley Chapel sat a quarter of a mile east of beautiful downtown Bluff City and about two miles outside of Vandalia.

It was part of what I called a two and a half point charge. This meant that for only the second time in their ninety year history, Haley Chapel and an “open prairie” church named Mt. Carmel, and The Vandalia First United Methodist Church (part time associate pastor position) were all yoked together. And I was the newly-minted clergyperson, fresh out of seminary, in that pastoral role.

Haley Chapel had been named Outstanding Small Church of the District a couple of months prior to the now-dying applause.

The Bishop was shaking our hands while telling us which stairs to use to get offstage.

I turned to the church’s Lay Leader who’d just told me, “Remember, it was the church that won this award, not you,” and replied, “I know. Believe me, I know!”

Her words stuck with me. Because they resonated deeply and loudly with what I’d been taught by several heroes in several places: “It’s the church…not you.”

And beyond even that, 1st Corinthians 12:8-11 begins with a list of gifts we all bring in various ways and concludes that one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one. It’s the Holy Spirit, not you, Joe.

And then there are all those other great paragraphs about all of us being connected and necessary in 1st Corinthians 12 that are simply seminal to healthy church life and mission. It’s the Holy Spirit at work in the people who are the church, not you, Joe.

It fit. It all fit.

It was my first appointment out of seminary. And I think I learned more from the people in those congregations than I had in any school before or since.

Simple summary? God’s still in business.

See you back here tomorrow for The 4th of July.

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3 Comments
  1. We are so very blessed, when we learn from the congregations where we serve.

  2. I have clung to the gifts and how we don’t need all of them to be a Christian and that makes me Feel whole as a Christian.

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