On Sunday September 13, our church had a special service of worship. We each participated in a ceremony to mark the beginning of a new and changing year together. Each person in attendance, regular worshipper and guest alike, was given the opportunity to come forward to the altar table to pick up a small stone and place it in a glass container on either side of the table. These containers will be made into stepping stones to be displayed in the church as a reminder of how God brings us together in our various life positions, ministries, and fellowships to do the work of the Kingdom.

I had the pleasure of being a small part of this service, standing near the altar table as the community came forward to participate. I saw some holy moments I would like to share with you.

The act of choosing one of the many varied and unique stones was the beginning of the tangible worship act. Each person could choose a red one, a green one, a gray one, or a white one. They chose a large, medium, or small one. They chose smooth or rougher ones. Each unique individual chose a unique stone, whether in their youth reaching forcefully and quickly, in their old age reaching gingerly and more slowly, or in their young childhood standing on tiptoes to gaze over the top of the table to pick a stone.

The movement from the table to the glass container varied person to person. Some walked quickly, some slowly. Some needed direction, others knew exactly what to do instinctively. Some stopped briefly at the altar after choosing a stone, some paused at the glass container before placing their stone in it. I saw quiet heart-moments where our community stopped to remember those things and people they are thankful for at this great church, our celebration and tangible ritual of thanksgiving…

We celebrated River Road Church’s:

  • Past: The good things that have happened through the ministries of our church this year.
  • Present: The community and space to worship God we find here today.
  • Future: The good work of this church that will continue as we begin a new season.

We offered prayers of thanksgiving for those things that matter most to us at River Road:

  • It might have been a person (teacher, staff members, committee member, deacon, Stephen minister, or friend).
  • It might have been a small group (your Sunday School class, a study group, a choir, or a mission team).
  • It might have been an event (a worship service, a concert, a recreation event, or a mission project).

As I held my own stone, I gave thanks for a great staff with whom I now have the pleasure to work alongside more often in my new position here:

  • For Dan Bagby, whose wisdom and leadership have been essential during my internship and will continue to guide me in this time of transition for both myself and the church.
  • For Michael Kellett, who provides insight into my new ministry and guides me even in the smallest of questions as I ease into my new role.
  • For Mike Clingenpeel, who has taught me so much as my intern supervisor, my pastor, and my friend – we will miss him as pastor but are forever grateful for his many years of leadership here. He retires and leaves behind the best of staff members to work with and lead the church into transition and beyond.
  • For Sheryl Johnson, who has prepared me to fill her very big shoes in our church’s ministry Christian Education & Spiritual Formation. She also planned this ceremony and left us with a great gift of reflection and celebration to guide us as we move into a transition time and a new church year.
  • For Bob Gallagher, who continues to provide us with stronger leadership in music, both in worship and concert performance. Music holds a special place in my heart, as it does for so many in our congregation. We are blessed to have him here in our community.
  • And for all of our support staff, boards, and active laypeople who work together to ensure the ministries of River Road Church are successful and point us toward the good Kingdom work toward which Jesus has called us.

I hope in the coming days and months of transition, this ceremony is something we can all reflect upon to remind us of what we love, what nurtures us, and what brings us life in our ministries at our church.

Note: If you have not had a chance to participate in this ceremony, you will have one more opportunity on Sunday, September 20th in the narthex before or after worship to have an individual moment of reflection and place your own stone into one of the glass containers before they are cast into stepping stones.