Last Sunday we had a bar-b-que for Bethany North at the site of the new church- Richmond Highlands Recreation Center. The weather was glorious (over 90 degrees) so we set up tables and sound system outside in the lawn next to the playground. Darrell Jacobson and Scott Henricksen worked the barbeques, Ken Barron and Cameron McClurg set up tables and chairs, Don Ryder set up the sound system, Connie Jacobson, Karen Henricksen and Nina Franey set up food and snacks they had prepared. Megan Barron and Jan Radford set up kids activities (pudding painting! water balloon toss!) and everyone else showed up and helped with last-minute set up.
Over the course of a few hours in the afternoon, people ate burgers. Children laughed as parents pushed them in the swings. Music played as others gathered in groups of 3-5 around tables and talked. The core group of Bethany North that have expressed interest in the new church since the beginning were here. Many new friends that have just recently heard of Bethany North showed up and met new people. A few water balloons were tossed, other kids painted with pudding and ended up with chocolate-stained faces and shirts. People laughed. Some talked of great joy of a summer full of adventure and excitement and recent travels they had returned from. Others shared the heartache of losing family members or new disappointments with jobs or family planning.
And as I looked around, I realized, “This is the church.” These conversations, these smiles, these hugs between friends, these new bonds being made with new believers. This is the church. Yes we are starting services for Bethany North on Sep. 26 at RHRC. But the church services in late September will not constitute the beginning of the church- the church is already forming in the relationships we have with one another. It is a funny thing, this interaction between Father God and community between the fellowship of believers, but nobody can deny God’s great heart for community. God identifies Himself throughout the Old Testament not only as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…but mostly as the Father of the Nation of Israel. He is a God of people. And God’s people are close to His heart. Despite our wiring for individualism, it is our relationships with one another that we most often witness God’s love. By connecting to one another, we learn more of the Father’s love for us. Truly, God cares about how we relate to one another. And perhaps one of the most exciting things about Bethany North is that we are already becoming His church in the relationships we have formed with another. Sunday’s barbeque was a great day of fellowship and connection. I think God was smiling down as we gathered and played.