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Friday, April 29, 2011

My Huzzahs for imagine/Northampton's FEAST, April 24, 2011.

It's been 5 days since the FEAST. We are still enjoying reflecting and talking about what God pulled off on Easter Sunday. So, I need to begin my post with a simple, exuberant "HUZZAH!" For those of you not born as early as the 16th century, you've probably not used this shout of exclamation. "HUZZAH" expresses joy, applause, or appreciation. It's similar to "Yay," or "Hurray." I love the word and feel it appropriate to what happened at FEAST.
HUZZAH Number One:

I must celebrate God who answered our prayer that his guests would feel special; despite their circumstances, they mattered and he delighted in blessing them on this Day of days. Everyone I spoke with, including guys who referred to their address as "in the woods," was blown away by how they were treated and served. The beauty of the room and how the table was set elegantly, the lavish menu, including desserts you'd find at a 4-star restaurant, and the kindness shown them by the team and volunteers sent a clear message. People were overwhelmed saying things such as: "I've never eaten a meal like this," or "I feel I was treated like a king," or "This is amazing!" He honored our desire to create a good memory for people.

HUZZAH Number Two:

God's faithfulness has also been remarkable. In a very quiet, consistent manner he provided all we needed to do FEAST. For such a tiny church as we are, doing the event was a humongous step of faith. We asked for more money than we ever had for a single event. We'd never asked before for the number of volunteers we'd need to augment our team. Also, we really had no idea how many guests would show up for the event. Even though we printed over 200 invitations (to get a handle on numbers), and organizations such as the Northampton Survival Center, the GAP Program, and the Interfaith Shelter faithfully handed out all we gave them, there was no guarantee anyone would come through the doors on Easter.

What if we raised all this money, had all these volunteers, and hardly anyone showed? We didn't want to waste people's generosity. But neither could we predict or control any of the seeming essentials. God kept us in the place of utter dependence right through the event. This would be his deal and his alone.

Well, what a deal it was. We had more than we needed financially, and both the Northampton Center for the Arts, and the Northampton Rental Center gave us a break either with price or time. We also had 31 volunteers from 5 Churches in MA and CT. College Church in Northampton provided some of those volunteers and also let us use their kitchen facilities for 2 days. The BARN in Simsbury, CT, the church we came from, generously gave us kitchen equipment and table cloths we would've needed to rent otherwise.

God provided all we needed and then some.

HUZZAH Number Three:

You'd expect a ton of work needed to be done in order to prepare and pull off and such an event. It was complex, but the imagine team and all the volunteers rose to the occasion with aplomb. All the logistics needed to be planned such as procuring the place, designing invitations and fliers, creating task instruction sheets for the volunteers, getting musicians and rehearsing the music (in Hartford), alerting social service agencies in Northampton, buying and preparing all the food, setting up the event space the day before, instructing and coordinating volunteers, serving the meal, and cleaning up. All our helpers (old and new friends) rose marvelously to the occasion, and worked as a good-natured team. They each added to the atmosphere and tone of the event.

I'm especially proud of our imagine team who with gracious skill tackled what needed to be done, and served our guests with heart and spirit.

Hospitality abounded.

Special kudos to:

  • Tricia McDermott for her unflappable ability to create an atmosphere of beauty, see the big picture from beginning to end, take care of critical details in the preparation phases, and orchestrate on the fly a myriad of details to keep FEAST moving forward.
  • Ashley Oldham for asking great questions in the planning, connecting and building relationships with local Social Service agencies to get the word out, and instructing and coordinating volunteers on the day of the event.
  • Jenn Swick for her can-do attitude and ability to tackle any task asked of her with skill; being able to cover multiple bases during the FEAST event itself.
  • Sara Loomis for her work at continously keeping a smooth flow of food moving from the kitchen to the serving tables, and back.
  • Vicki Oldham's skill with taking on the major task of preparing the banquet table and coffee station, to ensure everything needed was ready, then breaking it all down efficiently.
The grandest HUZZAH for me was witnessing the germ of an idea from Luke 14:12-24 gradually unfold under the generous guiding hand of God. Experiencing him do that so our faith was strengthened and deepened in the process has been extremely gratifying. He lead us as a church beyond ourselves, taking us past our own resources and abilities, and giving everything necessary to create a FEAST. We can testify to his unparalleled ability to fulfill what he desires through smallness. He pulled believers together from different churches to work in unity. He gave money and help from people in Northampton, MA, CT and beyond. He brought 75 guests, most of them strangers to us, and knocked their socks off.

In the end, by what he did, he said, "You can do this, because I will do it, and want you to walk with me as I do. See my glory manifested in your littleness."

I AM El Shaddai: "The All-Sufficient God"
I AM El-Channun: "The Gracious God"
I AM El-Hanne'eman: "The Faithful God"
I AM El Elyon: "The Most High God"

HUZZAH Indeed!

Team member Nate Oldham took all these lovely pictures and many more. Check him out:

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