This past Sunday, I sat back in the pew and enjoyed a wonderful performance of “The Tale of Three Trees” (music by Allen Pote and words by Tom Long) by the Junior and Children’s Choirs at University Presbyterian Church (Chapel Hill, NC). While the entire performance was absolutely wonderful and endearing, as well as a nice change of pace for my church visits, one particular song stood out to me–
A Prayer for Tomorrow
(Tom Long & Allen Pote)
Dreams, we all have dreams, what we can be, what we can do.
Lord, with all we are, we pray that our dreams will lead us, will lead us to you.
See our hands, what will they make, Lord?
See our feet, where will they run?
See our hearts, who will they love, Lord?
See our lives, we’ve just begun!
In our eyes you see tomorrow.
On that day one thing we know:
there’s a dream from one who loves us that is greater than our own.
Listening to the beautiful voices of these children, I began to wonder what the dreams of this congregation and the larger Church might be? During the break between the two worship services, I decided to find out.
The first thing I noticed was a dream for the children of the congregation. Not only did I see parents and other volunteers working to make sure everything went smoothly with the performance, but I saw opportunities all around for the children to be involved in worship. Teal bags hung in the narthex, ready to be carried into the sanctuary by little hands that would explore the bag’s contents and be tied into worship in a creative and active way. In the bulletin, scripture readings were not just provided with page numbers in a pew Bible, but also in a Children’s Bible that was available right next to the pew Bible. I spoke with one young man who delighted in the greeting of a toddler and shared with me his love for the smallest children and his time volunteering in the nursery. As the sanctuary was prepared for the second worship, I saw a banner hanging at the baptismal font for the young girl who would be baptized later that morning. Everywhere I looked, I saw a dream for the faith formation of those who might not fully understand yet, but will show us the way if we let them.
I enjoyed a cup of coffee as I listened to the story of a woman who makes blankets for those children being baptized, but also for those members and friends of the congregation who are hurting– those who are grieving, those who are sick, and those who just need a warm embrace. If she can’t make them a blanket, she is sure to send them a card. In the passion and delight of this woman who grew up in this congregation, I saw a dream of caring, warm, embracing love.
I walked outside of the front doors and looked up where I saw a banner, visible from the UNC Chapel Hill campus, “WE CHOOSE WELCOME”. Throughout the building, I found copies of the PC(USA) statement on immigration. I found brochures and pictures of outreach and I witnessed the embrace of members and new visitors. I saw a dream of inclusivity and truly living as the ONE Body of Christ.
As this congregation prepares for the retirement of beloved pastor for 26 years, Rev. Bob Dunham (M. Div. 1975), I heard stories of a ministry that has marked and changed hundreds of lives. I heard lament and grief, but I also heard a spark of wonder and dreaming as they asked for recommendations of pastors to call upon and things to do in this time of transition. I saw a dream for future ministry, one that holds the traditions of the congregation close but one that will challenge them in this next chapter.
Every dream was clearly visible, it took almost no effort to find them. Every dream is leading this congregation closer to the Lord, just as the song states. Every dream is fueled by the dream of Jesus Christ.
I wonder, what are the dreams of your congregation?
What dreams do you have for your own ministry?
One of the greatest parts of being married, I have learned, is having someone to share my dreams with each morning. Voicing the excitement of my dream, or sharing the struggle of the dream; bringing life to a dream by bringing it into the light and out of my mind.
I invite you to think about who it is that you share your dreams with, and how your congregation shares their dreams with one another? What do you have around building? What stories are members and friends sharing? Invite others to take a look and share with you what they see. Do they match up or do they seem something different from you?
I invite you to dream– big and small– dream a dream that leads you and your congregation closer to Jesus.
“Dreams, we all have dreams, what we can be, what we can do.
Lord, with all we are, we pray that our dreams will lead us, will lead us to you.”
Rev. Jordan B. Davis