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Monday, June 4, 2012

Of Baptisms, Tag Sales, and Missions Fairs.

In the last couple of months, we've had opportunities to experience new life-together stuff. Each a bit different, but all a part of how we're wending our way though the missional life we have together in imagine/Northampton.

Nhung Bui's Baptism:

In April, we had the joy of celebrating our second baptism. Nhung Bui, a graduating senior at Smith College had been coming to imagine for a number of months. She was part of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Smith, and imagineurian, Crystal Fryer, the full-time Staff Worker there, invited her to our group. We grew in relationship with her, and she felt at home with us. She'd become a believer a year earlier, but was ready to be baptized. She wanted us to do it.

So on a bright, sunny Sunday morning after church we headed over to Puffer's Pond on the Smith Campus for the sacrament. Tricia and I had the honor of baptizing her. It was the first time for us doing it together. A number of students and friends showed up, including some who were not believers, but were curious and wanted to support her. I was glad to see so many, including our friends David and Anne Hulley who've had a major Christian influence on young women at Smith for years.

So down into the murky water we went about 12 feet out from the bank. It was a tad slimy and the cold water immediately let us know we were alive! I took a minute to explain the meaning of what we were about to do, asked her a couple of questions for her to affirm she knew what she was doing, and then Tricia and I gently laid her briefly under the surface of the water. When we lifted her back up, everyone applauded, and she was smiles from ear to ear. Back on the bank there were hugs and pictures, especially with the women in her house group.

After, we headed back for our monthly Pot-of-Grace meal as part of the celebration. Later that week, we gave her a Bible and some other gifts to remember imagine/Northampton by. It was all lovely.

What struck me was the beauty and grace abounding in this sacrament. Love and Life were evident each step of the way. We had the privilege of celebrating the reality that Nhung had committed her life to Jesus at her conversion, and now was publicly testifying to that truth with unbelieving friends and committed brethren. The Kingdom shone through at the pond for a few minutes that day. We all at imagine hope God will grant us more baptisms and often!

Nhung will begin her graduate studies at Princeton in the fall. We hope to see her again.

The First imagine/Northampton Tag Sale:

As a few of you might be aware, we are considering moving to a building called the Round House in the fall. It's contingent somewhat on whether we can raise monies sufficient for the first year's lease ($46,200) -- at least, that's the thinking right now. So a couple of weekend's ago we had our first all-church tag sale to begin the process. Many of us gathered our stuff for sale and hauled it over to Jenn Swick's and Kait Brink's apartment, It was Kait's idea to have the event, and they graciously offered the yard  and porch of their apartment to hold it. The location was good.

So we had the usual assortment of books, clothes, toys, knick-knacks, records, some baked goods, and various other used household items. As they always do, the dealers came first, looking for particular things. They didn't stay long. Soon after, all manner of people trickled by to browse. They bought stuff; $455 worth. Not bad for a first try.

While I was happy for the results, I most enjoyed all of us being together in a common effort, getting a chance to hang out and engage people. For instance, I got to know Wednesday (her nickname), better. Tricia and I stayed for about 2 1/2 hours, then left, returning in early afternoon to help clean up. I was also pleased to know people inquired about who imagine/Northampton was, and what we were about. It's always important to help our neighbors put faces with names; such connecting breaks down barriers, particularly with how folks in this community view Christians. Neighborhood tag sales let us engage people on a common ground. We all have tag sales at times. We all buy stuff. The community gathers around a mutually beneficial transaction, and conversation happens.

Good stuff for missional relationship building. The Kingdom has a face. Labels fade when relaxed talk happens around the common good, shared reality and a bargain.

So we'll do more of this. If you know us, you know we have considerable talent around food, so I can see a smash-hit bake sale in our future: "Hazelnut Peach Frangipane Tart anyone? Oh you want 2? Coming right up, madam!"

The Mission & Ministry Fair at THE BARN in Simsbury:

Yesterday, imagineurians Jim LaMontagne, Eslie McDermott, Dave & Karen Sweeney, Jenn Swick and Jon G. Hill traveled to The Barn in Simsbury for their Mission & Ministry Fair. It's was our home church (McDermott's, LaMontagne's & Bayne's) prior to coming up here. They have been supporting from the beginning.

The event was a great opportunity for us to have folks there meet some of our folks, and see the fruit of their support. Also, folks at the Barn are wonderful people and so are our imagineurians; they are related through us in a way. We also wanted our people to see the place where imagine/Northampton began as an idea, prayer, and dream. And the physical plant itself is quite beautiful just to experience. Jon mentioned more than once after seeing it all that we were "very fortunate." to have lived there for 20 years. Indeed we were.

The centerpiece of our presentation was a 7-minute video  generously created for us by Dave Sweeney with his partner, Marty Langford. They have a video production company called Viz-bang,
and spent time with a number of us filming interviews, showing Northampton, and even giving glimpses of our jazz group1FlightUP, . As Dave says, it's "still a work in progress," but even now it communicates well how we understand ourselves and our mission from more than one person.

So we spent the 2 hours in the Celebration Hall talking with old friends and meeting some new folks. I was delighted to see other missional colleagues representing their work: Betty Means, Bob and Becky Cooley with AIM, Gary Moorehead with Marigold Fund, and Jeff Kraines with The Navigators, for instance. Catching up with people was satisfying, and seeing us all doing missional work in our own spheres of influence was heartening to me.

I also enjoyed talking to people about what we are doing. They asked intelligent questions which gave me a chance to respond about work which is a great passion for me. Telling the story of what God is doing in our midst and through our efforts together is how we connect them with imagine. I hope it inspired, and built their faith a bit.

Perhaps the most fulfilling was seeing Jim, Eslie, Dave, Jenn, Karen, and Jon representing our mission together to people they didn't know (Jim, was a member of the Barn, and Eslie, grew up on the property at the Center For Renewal). I feel such pleasure at witnessing imagineurians express a life-giving identity with our community, and the Kingdom mission we are undertaking together as we follow Christ in Northampton.

This stuff never gets old for me, whether lived out through imagine Baptisms, Tag Sales or Mission Fairs. I never thought I'd be any of this in the first place.
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