Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Just Another Youth Sunday" - NOT!

Today, being the Sunday following Mothers Day Sunday, Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) held the annual Youth Sunday. Believe you me, dear reader, "Youth Sunday" at ECC(DC) is NOT "just another Sunday" or even "another Youth Sunday". It's far from the "same ol' same ol'". Each of the three such Sundays Eastwood has had since I joined (A.D. 2008) has been vastly different from the other two!

To start out with, this time around we had nobody graduating from either high school nor college. Lacking a grad to deliver the sermon, the duty fell on our Associate Pastor, Michael Lehman -- a first for Youth Sunday as far as I know.

(This does not mean our youth group is getting any smaller; it's merely the way age and school year distribution works out.)

Altho' Eastwood is blessed with many musically talented young people (several sing in the choir and/or play instruments), I suspect the current batch contains all the more! If true this is good news: barring any unforseen tragedy such as a move out of State they'll all be back for the NEXT Youth Sunday!

Yes, the morning's Anthem, "Homeward Bound", was sung by a male youth quartet, and several young folk delivered the Response in Song (to "Pastor Mickey"'s message) - more about that oh-so-special song shortly. But even starting with the Prelude music we had a young person, John Hartley (younger son of Pastor Jay), playing a spiritual tune on his violin (fiddle if you will). Shortly afterwards, in a novel twist on the childrens time/sermon we had "Grown-Ups Time", heralded by new lyrics to "Jesus Loves the Little Children":

...Jesus loves all the grown-ups, all the grown-ups of the world;
...Mean or cool or Jay Hartley, Jesus loves you so do we. . . !

We celebrated the Lord's Supper as we do on First Sundays: coming forward via central aisle to take a piece of bread, do intinction (dipping the morsel into chalice contents, then consuming) and then forming a circle around the sanctuary walls. Once all had partaken, Choir Director Julie stationed herself in a front pew with cue cards and the youth (or most of them) sang "I Will Rise" for the Closing Song. During a brief instrumental bridge before the final refrane some of us adult choir members stepped out of our places in the closing circle "surrounded" the youth while joining in the song:

...And I hear the voice of many angels sing, "Worthy is the Lamb!"
...And I hear the cry of ev'ry longing heart, "Worthy is the Lamb!"

The adult choristers doing such symbolized adult support of and love for our unique youth group, and our role as earthly portion of their "cloud of witnesses".

Speaking of "Cloud of Witnesses", this was the theme of Youth Sunday, taken from Hebrews 12:1 a verse from Scriptures read in the service. Indeed, Heb. 11:29-12:2 were the basis for the day's sermon: "No Ordinary Fans". It was also the title of the oh-so-special Anthem I mentioned earlier. Originally the lyrics were composed by Donna Gunn, one of our very bright and creative young folk at Eastwood and daughter of the church secretary, as a poem. But she wanted it to be more than poetry and so she asked "Pastor Mickey" to help her by composing a song. And what the two came up with stands as the most awesome of the many awesome elements of Youth Sunday 2011 at Eastwood Church!

Or as I told "Pastor Mickey" after the Sunday potluck dinner that followed Worship, "of all the several awesome elements, the song you and Donna co-wrote was 'the awesome-est'!" The Title in quotations is who the worship bulletin specified would deliver the sermon. While speaking about many positives and endearing traits of our youth group Michael mentioned that this was the nickname they came up with for him. And yes, he did at this point don mouse ears!

Ha, ha! I love and enjoy and rejoice in my church family! Thank God for Eastwood Church! May the Lord continue to bless the family who gather at 1604 Eastland Avenue in East Nashville to do what we do so well with the Spirit's and each other's help: love one another in our diversity and lovingly serve the community He has set us in!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Taking a friend to church

Over the years of my life, with my numerous residences, jobs and congregational memberships, I've frequently invited neighbors or co-workers to come to church on Sunday. Seldom have I received an affirmative answer, alas.

Sunday the 27th of March I got that rare opportunity! The place where I've lived since the beginning of the year, "The Academy" (a transitional home mainly for military vets), includes another Army vet named Mick. He served in combat in A-stan. . . you can imagine the after-effects he's suffered. Despite those, he's a bright, calm and friendly fellow. I've liked Mick from the beginning, and the two of us have confided mutually in each other.

Well, on the 27th I'm sitting in the common area, dressed for and awaiting time to depart to Sunday worship at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). Mick comes walking in, attired in a dark suit, white shirt and dark necktie. I quip, "Well, Mick, you look like you're fixin' to preaching somewhere!"

Smiling, he comes around to saying that he's actually contemplating where to go for Sunday worship. In a heartbeat I invite him to come along with me to Eastwood. And Mick accepts!

So we two pile into "Antonio Margil", my new '95 Acura Integra, and headed over to East Nashville. On the way I describe the congregation, the style of worship and some of why I'm so devoted to this collection of brothers & sisters in Christ. As I told Mick, "I'm very hesitant to equate any one congregation with the (mystical or spiritual) Body of Christ, but Eastwood comes about as close as any congregation I've ever experienced."

Praise be to the Lord! My Eastwood brothers & sisters live up to my billing! It was a "typical" Sunday morning at 1604 Eastland St., in that I go away very spiritually refreshed. And Mick clearly is also nourished in his spirit. This is what "having church" is supposed to be. . . .

Melodious Anniversary to the Crisis

The week ending today, Saturday 7 May, is the anniversary of the Great Flood of 2010. A year ago portions of Nashville, Clarksville and the rest of West and Middle Tennessee, and of adjacent States, got inundated by lethal raging waters of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.

AND THEN my fellow Music City residents truly showed their mettle. And showed it big-time!

Tuesday evening the Third of May they had a special edition of the Tuesday Nite Opry radio show on WSM. The day of week was particularly significant, as was the venue, the Grand Ole Opry House. You see, dear reader, The Grand Ole Opry show performed in the House on Saturday, 1 May A.D. 2010, as rain poured down, with no end in sight. More than one Opry cast member commented that night. By Tuesday the Fourth the House was inundated (Cumberland's flood crest having happened just before midnight on the Third), and the Tuesday Nite Opry scheduled for then was in need of an alternative location. Opry staff and cast -- and Nashvillians in general -- did not fold hands with a "Woe is us, we're ruined; stop everything!"

Instead, they located an alternative performance hall downtown in War Memorial Auditorium -- actually a former home of the show (1939-1943; see, or for details).

The Opry family showed that "the show must go on!"

Fast forward to this week. On Tuesday the show took a subtitle: "Play on, Nashville!" This wasn't just a reflection on the disaster of a year ago, nor a celebration of Nashville's resilience and the rebuilding that's taken place in the ensuing year. Several charitable organizations got linked to the performance; both live and radio audiences were strongly encouraged to contribute, that repairs which remain can get done. PLUS that further funds go to assist victims and survivors of horrendous tornadoes which ravaged Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and other southern States -- not a year ago but merely last week!

I can simply imagine how those unfortunate souls are still in shock. We Nashvillians were there a year ago. May our resilience then be an inspiration to them NOW!

I didn't get to listen to the entire show, but I did hear the beginning and ending. If for no other reason than that I heard Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins this show was worth the listening. But references in word and song to WHY the evening was so special caused it to be not just worthwhile but unique and valuable!

Speaking of Brad Paisley, here's a link to a report on the "Play On, Nashville!" evening, with special attention to this beloved member of the Opry cast. And if you haven't heard it yet and are a Country Music or Opry fan, you need to hear Brad's latest hit single: "This Is Country Music (and We Do)"! Just like the Opry expresses Country and related American music genres, Brad's song presents and CELEBRATES certain enduring themes of Country song lyrics, and concludes with him singing well-known phrases from certain famous songs by famous artists. Here's a video of him singing "This Is Country Music" and accepting Entertainer of the Year at the 2010 CMA show (but get some Kleenex, to wipe your eyes):