For the Mix in ’06, the QA we partnered with the UCC women, I was invited to be the communion director which involved getting a chalice from each region to QA (and making sure they got picked up) and teaching women who spoke a dozen different languages (which I do not speak) how to serve 3000(?) women a communion meal during worship. It was an amazing experience and I remembered going home having learned very clearly that smiles communicate a great deal in that situation. The rest of my communication was miming…not sure what my skills are there but everyone was fed and we worshiped together.
Other than that I had not experienced a Quadrennial Assembly from the point of view of the planning team. It is an outrageous and impossible job and yet we had dozens of women agree to give of themselves and their time to make it happen…and they did, indeed, make it happen.
As the planning began and we worked together to hear God’s call and what theme might reflect that, we were very excited about having a direction. As plans took on more shape there were new ideas that popped up and grew and we got very excited about. Suddenly, it felt like we were planning three different events and trying to roll them all into one package. Under Arlene Pimentel’s and Michelle White’s leadership it all came together and we were blessed.
Through the planning we dreamed of what we wanted the women attending to know about God and about each other. We planned moments where we thought God would be clearly present and evident to all who attended. Some of the team had very clear pictures of how things would work and flow and come together and were certain that God would speak. But even with the large numbers of women who gave of themselves to make this happen we can never keep God confined to our planning or even our vision.
One of the pre-events of QA is a dinner with the International Sisters sponsored by Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries. The dinner this year was held at a local church only a few blocks away. The day was spent in preparing the stage in the plenary hall, dressing the worship space, etc. and with a little time left I went and changed out of work clothes into appropriate dinner attire to welcome our International Sisters. As I walked toward the church the dark clouds started rolling in but since it was a short distance I decided it wasn’t necessary to go back for an umbrella but one block away my mistake was clear when the skies opened up with a torrential downpour. I ran under an awning at a rental car space to try to stay sheltered in hopes that the storm would pass or slow down enough that I could make it the rest of the way to the church. As I tucked into my dry haven and the water pooled at all the low places in the street I could see that if I were patient it would slow down enough for me to make it the rest of the way to the church. As I stood in my alcove a bus went flying by that sent a tsunami of rain water up over me drenching me completely.
Now what? This was ridiculous and impossible. I might as well just go back to the hotel and give up. But…as I waited for a break in the weather I remembered the stories of how some women visiting our international sisters were met by women who had walked for two weeks to greet them….two weeks! How could I walk away because I was wet when our sisters had walked two weeks to show hospitality?!
I decided I was fully drenched and it made no sense to wait so I began the rest of the walk to the church. As it turned out when I arrived at the church the doors were all locked. I buzzed the intercom and was told that the dinner was being held at the annex which was a block and half back the way I had come. Already determined that I would show up regardless, I started back around the church and out on to the sidewalk in the rain. A man was coming the other way looking quite sane carrying an umbrella…as anyone with some sense would do. As he approached me he turned around and stood with me with his umbrella over both of us. He asked me if I was lost…well, that was the nicest question he could ask someone who looked like me rather than making a judgment about my ability to be rational or worse. I told him the address and he said, “I’ll take you there.” He then turned away from his original direction to walk me back to where I was headed all the while making small talk to distract me from my physical state. He brought me right to the door of the hall where the dinner was and I said my goodbyes and tried to enter as inconspicuously as someone dripping wet might be able to do.
So, now, lesson #1. In spite of all the planning, working, struggling, dreaming, praying about making space for God to show up…God always shows up and God shows up at the most unexpected times and reminds us that we are blessed with other travelers on this journey who are blessings to us and for whom we may also be a blessing.
Be open to those God puts in your life as blessings and reminders of God’s presence.