I always make it a point to emphasize that Circle of Hope is a safe place. And I say this as I introduce our time for worship at the Sunday meeting. Sometimes friends think I overstate this because an encounter with the living God should be a little scary, and in certain circumstances it is, but at the Sunday meeting, I think God meets us right where we are at, and, as best they can, so does the pastor and the team leaders.
I want to make it really clear that you can just watch what is happening. If you are not part of us yet, our meeting is designed for you. You’re not ready to sing? That’s OK. You don’t want to pray? Also fine. The pastor and the team leaders may invite you to do something. It’s perfectly fine to say, “No thanks.”
But, I also share my experience. It is better when we all help make the meeting happen. Even quiet observation helps to make the meeting safe and welcome; it permits someone else to take it easy if that’s what they need to do.
I also think that the meeting is safe enough for you to take a risk and try something new. I think it works better when you try something that you wouldn’t normally try. You can imagine it like a meal if you want. Trying something could be like tasting something you didn’t think you’d like.
Since home cooking is a fun part of my life, I think about crafting our meeting like preparing a meal. Our leaders do a lot of the prep work—or even the meal planning itself. But we can all get into it. The bread tastes better when you get your hands in the dough; the fish taste better when you’re elbow deep in the guts. If you want to help, there’s always an onion to chop; there’s some parsley to mince; there’s always a way to help. Grab an apron and help make the meal happen. It’ll be more satisfying that way.
Our meetings are designed to help people engage with God, but they aren’t “slick.” I hope they don’t come across as sloppy, but we don’t want them to be too pristine that you can’t participate. This isn’t a prix-fixe French menu. It’s a little more homemade than that. It’s OK if your lattice crust isn’t perfect or if the meat is a little overcooked. It happens. But it’s still nourishing and God is still using it.
So we’re looking for those kind of people; ready to grab a knife and start cooking. But, if you aren’t ready to do that because cutting feels dangerous, that’s OK. You can watch what’s happening and take a bite. You might like it enough to try to help the next time. Or maybe you won’t like it and you can teach us how to make it better.
I am afraid that ultimately you won’t be satisfied if you just sit on the sidelines and don’t engage with the meal that we are helping God to prepare. We aren’t so great for church shoppers looking for the best deal or the best burger in town. But if you need safety, or are ready to try to take a risk, we’re just for you.