I noticed him stepping hurriedly across the uneven church yard. I worried he may be moving faster than advised. I called, “Good morning!” He called back, “I’m late.” I replied, “Well, grab my elbow and we’ll go together.” At the church door, the greeter opened the door and offered her elbow as he explained, “I’m late!” As my family and I took our seats in the sanctuary, I noticed him hurrying down the aisle. When he made it to the choir loft, an alto stood and held out her hands. She helped him up the step and then turned to the tenor behind her who placed his hand on the man’s elbow to help him up the second step and into his seat. The choir knew he was coming because the man’s music folder came down the line of men, passed from one hand to another. The senior adult choir was leading in worship, and their final member had arrived.
I found myself a bit amused at the elderly gentleman who hurtled across the church yard and down the aisle after the service had already started; but as the choir sang, I thought about how seriously this man took his responsibility to being present. Neither being late or disrupting the service precluded him from getting to his spot to do his job. I realized, “Who wouldn’t want to stand with a group of people who welcome you with steadying hands and a prepared music folder?” From the moment the man entered the church, hands welcomed him, and elbows steadied him as he made his way into the choir. His fellow choir members had remembered him and brought along his music folder. He belonged with them and they expected him to be there.
Helping hands and steadying elbows are the church at its best. Who doesn’t want to be with a church family who reaches out and calls us in? Who doesn’t want to be with a church family who expects us and even better, prepares for us? Who doesn’t want to know their spot is open and waiting just for them?
This Sunday, I hope I can welcome my church family with open hands. I hope each child can hear the joy in my voice as I welcome them to Sunday school. I hope my church family can see the grace in my eyes as I serve the bread and juice. I hope my church family knows I expect them and I prepare for them. And I hope that hands will be reaching out to me as I show up to do my part.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.