This Sunday was "Rally Day" on the church calendar, the day that the prodigal worshipers return (well, most of them, anyway), the day we are most likely to have visitors (other than Christmas and Easter), the day Sunday School starts, and a day when there are always plenty of brightly-colored balloons.
The children are back. The youth are back. The babies are back -- I can hear some crying in the back pew. There are a couple of families that I haven't seen in awhile, a new young couple in the adult choir, and also playing the handbells. There are teachers starting off the school year, and children with and without backpacks (we ask them to bring backpacks.)
I like to have children and adults help with the service, but we decided that the service was so full already, full of prayers and blessings and the children singing "This little light of Mine." So we only read the gospel at the second service.
I asked one of our high school students to do something different instead: help me in leading the intercessory prayers. We both knelt at the altar, trading petitions back and forth. I thought I saw a couple in the front beaming as she went back to her seat at the close of the prayers.
Earlier in the service, we blessed the children and their backpacks. There were so many up there I thought I would get lost in the crowd (perhaps I did; I'm a little height challenged). I've never done this before, but I decided to ask the congregation to raise their hands forward in blessing as we said the prayer. I then invited Sunday School teachers, and all teachers to come forward and be blessed at the beginning of their school year.
We raised our hands again.
If we learn nothing else in church, I wish we could learn to bless one another -- our children, the single person sitting alone, the grandparents, the parents, the non-parents, the out-of-work, the tired, the stranger, the one weeping, the one whispering.
If we learn nothing else in church, I wish we could learn to bless one another -- the clerk at the supermarket, the guy on the ladder, the man in the nursing home, the person who gives you a kiss when you walk in the door, the person who hates you, the person who doesn't understand you, or who knows you too well.
If we learn nothing else in church, I wish we could learn to bless one another, to raise our hands forward, to touch each other's lives, to change the world.