Yesterday, at our house in Sunderland, we began our "final approach" to imagine/northampton's launch in September. Generally, our approach (I know it has only been 10 months), has felt like that excruciatingly slow ride the Space Shuttles take from their hangar to the launching pad. It inches along and can take hours. Our "inching" will take a few more months.
16 of us were together for an afternoon of food, hanging out, and hearing about imagine's plans for the summer. Everyone seemed in a convivial spirit, ready to embark on something new even if each did not have a clear view of their part or where everything would head this summer. People just seemed happy to be together.
We began the day once everyone arrived with a sparkling lunch including Curry Chicken Salad with Green Grapes and Almonds, a Red Potato Salad with Dill, a Multi-colored Fresh Fruit Salad, an Artichoke Salad with White Beans, Pepperoni, Red Peppers and Buffalo Mozzarella, Onion Quiche, and assorted breads. We topped it off with Dark Chocolate Cake plus Honey Vanilla Ice Cream, and a Meringue Pie. I hope you get the idea that it was spectacular, because it was. We are blessed with some serious cooking chops on the team! I guarantee imagine/northampton will always have well-made and presented food as part of its culture.
We did not hurry lunch. We wanted plenty of time to sit around and catch up with everyone. Our desire was for people to talk and connect with one another, and with us in a way different from Conversations or the Strategic Prayer Huddles. Most had at least met at one of our gatherings, but not all. I knew everyone there more than anyone else on our team so I wanted them to have a chance to connect.
To that end, Karin LaMontagne put together a series of thought-provoking questions for after lunch. As we wound down with the meal, we briefly welcomed everyone formally and then turned it over to her. She explained that each person would take a question (she had rolled and tied them to look like blue scrolls), and then after some thought, answer it to the best of his or her ability in a couple of minutes. Karin had brought along a little carousel-like music box to play as a person deliberated, but after much team prayer, anguish, and a thorough search of the Scriptures for any acceptable reference to "carousel-like music boxes" we decided that it was not to be used.
After finished the experience, some of us noted how the questions, picked randomly and sight unseen, often fit the person in a very uncanny way, as if a particular question was "meant" for him or her. Also notable to me was how the experience evoked much laughter and gave people a chance to learn something personal about the others. As we moved around the circle the mood was light-hearted and warm, and people felt free to reveal a little about themselves that others did not know. It did help most there connect in a way that Conversations hadn't. Being in a home rather than a meeting place naturally added to the friendly atmosphere as well.
At end the day, Jim LaMontagne explained a bit about where we were going to head as we studied the Scriptures together through the summer. He is calling the study Living Missionally: A Study in Acts and will take us through the first 5 chapters beginning May 17th. Because we are a missional church culture by design, he will help us examine our understanding by looking at the first missional church.
After Jim spoke, I briefly explained the calendar for May highlighting the gathering at our house on May 17th and our "field trip" to the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton on May 24th. On June 6th, our graphic novelist, Matt Bayne will be part of a "convention" in NYC called MoCCA, 2009. It will be a second field trip together. We want to support, Matt, and see a bit of the comic world he inhabits, not to mention New York.
As we adjourned, I was heartened by the fact that after we concluded our scheduled time at 4, people hung around and chatted for at least another half hour. They had connected and were enjoying one another. I ended up talking to a couple of folks until after 6!
Almost felt like church . . . Hmmmmm.
As I mentioned in the last blog, we really do want folks to connect and build relationships with each other that will carry us all into the fall as we launch officially. Yesterday was a great start, and if the rest of the summer turns out like yesterday, we will be in fine shape come September!
The Lord was gracious to us.