When I came to this church 16 years ago, one of the responsibilities I was charged with was starting a new worship service. It wasn't exactly supposed to be a creation ex nihilo; the congregation's leaders had been playing around with some things during the 10:00 hour on Sunday morning for a little while before I came. But I came in to take that time and make it into something new, and energetic.
At first, and for a number of years, that service was (or seemed to be) wildly successful. It was our largest worship service. It was energetic. We learned some new songs. We tried some things (like learning to pray in sign language, for example, or a reader's theatre based on the story of the fourth wise man, or practicing prayers for healing). We never achieved perfection, and we did exhibit a few besetting sins, problems that were never quite solved. (At least some of the persistent problems had to do with acoustics and sound.)
Two years ago, we abandoned that service while we dreamed of the possibility of starting something new. Instead of expanding, our "new thing" was contracting. We went from two services to one, creating new relationships between people who had been attending the same church but never met. We experimented in a few other ways, blending styles of worship and having the children with us at the end of the worship service instead of at the beginning of worship. We tried to create space for failure, for success, for forgiveness.
Tonight I walked into the narthex for meetings. Stewardship and worship were both meeting this evening, and I was going to navigate between them. But as I walked into the narthex, I saw a new group, a small group of people, all sitting in a circle. I wasn't part of the meeting, but I knew what they were doing. They were dreaming about a new thing, a new worship service, a mission start right here in our building. It will be called "Tapestry". The dreamers and the imaginers imagine it as a multi-cultural and inclusive community which will meet on Sunday evenings. Worship will be informal. They will learn some new songs. They will experiment. It will never be perfect, but perhaps will welcome people who never felt at home in our sanctuary.
There is nothing new under the sun, they say, but still, we begin again. We imagine again what singing a new song could be like, what foods might be spread out on that holy mountain, and we try to give voice to that dream. It is what God is calling us to do.
I can't help feeling a little wistful, looking back to the dreams from when I first came here. I suppose I am wistful because I am not one of the people sitting around the circle, although I'm not uninvolved in the dreaming. I am a little wistful because I believe in this new vision, this new Tapestry, even though it was not my idea and I am not the one making it come to pass.
There is nothing new under the sun, they say, but still, we begin again. We can't help it. It is what God is calling us to do. But even more than that: it is what God is doing in us.