welcome home.

Yesterday, our church opened its doors to the new sanctuary. While we have been truly blessed in many ways in the building process, we have been also seen some hard times as a church body. This day filled me with giddy hope – like a child on Christmas morning. Not because of the newness of the building, comfy chairs, or any tangible thing, but because of God’s goodness and mercy that has been ever-present.

The past couple weeks were filled with looking back. Remembering. I was thinking back on when I walked through the doors of this very church, with a smaller “old” sanctuary….25 years ago. It was the first church I attended after the lights went on for me…..I was remembering the people, the relationships, their patience, love and rebuke. The caring – practically, emotionally, spiritually – that was poured out to me and my family. It was humbling and hard to remember certain things. Some relationships have “moved on” and that was sad. But, where absences appeared, God filled them to the brim with His love and kindness. He is at work in my life…and I thank Him for putting me in THIS body.

So, yesterday. We met in the “old” sanctuary one last time – standing room only and bursting at the seams – to pray together as we journeyed to the new sanctuary. We were offered noisemakers to help celebrate. At first I thought, how cute….for the kids! But as I walked next to Earl Krieder in his wheelchair and he honked and blew that thing like a kid at a birthday party, my eyes filled with tears of joy. Rejoicing.

It took me to Psalm 42:4

These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

I had to pull myself together to prepare to give the short announcements to the congregation once we got settled, so I took a deep breath, did a bit of a fist bump (I kind of couldn’t contain it!) and walked through the doors. My heart was beating pretty much out of my chest as I was handed the microphone….but as I stood up on the step to welcome everyone, I took a second to look around. Every seat was filled. The foyer had people on benches and lingering by the doors. I saw my family sitting all together. I saw my friends from years ago, and newly made. I was overwhelmed with joy. We were all home.

I could go on about the service….the choirs, the hymns, the communion service and sermon and how wonderful they were….but what gave us all that sense of wonder had nothing to do with the people on the stage or in the new, comfy chairs. God met us and filled us and our hearts overflowed with thankfulness and joy. And my eyes, well, they kept overflowing, too. “Welcome home, gather round. All ye refugees, come in.”

(yes, again…) Sandra McCracken: All Ye Refugees

I am the One, the earth is my handmade work
The skies I laid them wide, beauty unfurled
Horizon to horizon
Creation to creation, sings you home

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

Oh refugee, I did not cast you out
In death and broken ground, Salvation springs
My body and my blood, the healing that you need
Come and receive

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

Watch and wait and see, what is yet to be
Watch and wait and see, for the morning

Go out in joy and join the great procession
The mountains and the heav’ns all will rejoice
horizon to horizon, creation to creation
horizon to horizon, creation to creation
With one voice

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

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5 thoughts on “welcome home.

  1. Melissa, you’ve articulated here so much of what I, and I suspect many, were experiencing yesterday. I vacillated between tears and laughter all morning – all from joy and the overwhelming sense of how good God has been to us. It was hard to take it all in!!!!! Thanks for writing. It’s always helpful when someone puts into words what I’ve not yet been able to!

    • Thanks, Matt. I am so thankful for how God leads us, gathers us, lifts us up….You are an encouragement to me in so many ways! Praying your Christmas is extra joy-filled this year!

  2. Beautifully said, Melissa!! ❤ I remember the same feelings when we opened the first sanctuary. It was what you said: the feeling of giddiness after meeting for years in the fire hall and little church up on 82 (?) My mom and another woman, Liz Cherry, painted nearly the whole church, making sure to get more paint on the walls than themselves. Then a few years later, when we made the sanctuary longer and the elders and builders made it so that the kids could march around it like Joshua in Jericho, complete with real trumpets and the whole of the congregation shouting just before the wall fell down. (Scary to those of us worry warts who feared it could go wrong…me of little faith.) My middle sister got married there in 1991…we dedicated our Emily there in 1996. I played my flute in the balcony there. So many wonderfully beautiful memories. Praying God uses the new sanctuary in as many ways as He used the old…and that the memories continue.

    • Oh, Susie, I love those memories! I became a Christian in 1991! I may have even been present at Emily’s dedication! 🙂 Unless it was in the summer….I was in Seattle! How fun that our stories overlap in so many ways! xo

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