When I stepped up to the lectern to welcome people to St. James yesterday, I had an urge to look at the calendar. It wasn’t Christmas or Easter, but attendance at the morning worship service suggested that it might be.
The biggest bump in attendance may be attributed to the number of Scouts and their families who chose to worship with us as we celebrated SJPC’s long-standing relationship with Scouts in central Pennsylvania. Thanks to Christy O’Neill for organizing this event and to Troop 276 Committee Chair Phil Kehoe, Pack 279 Cubmaster Matt Weitzel and Tiger Den Leader Tim Pyle for attracting so many families to the church.
I am especially grateful to the Scouts who led worship with me, namely Padraig O’Neill (Call to Worship and Opening Prayer), Steven Lange (Prayer for Illumination and Old Testament Reading) and Mikhail Kehoe (New Testament Reading). I also appreciate the contributions of those Scouts who served as ushers and greeters: Charlie Bell, Bryson Dennis, Aaron Grinberg, Patrick Kehoe, Grayson Pyle, Nicholas Silcox, Nick Treadwell, Austin Weitzel and Evan Weitzel.
Writing a sermon for the service like the one in which we shared yesterday is tricky, because, on one hand, worship is worship regardless of what is happening around us. On the other hand, services inevitably assume the personality of the congregation who participates in them.
Since my scouting experience is limited, I did not have any personal stories to share as sermon illustrations. However, I did go to the places in my memory where stories that I thought would resonate with the congregation’s Scouting experiences are stored.
I reminisced about my participation in Presbytery Border Ministry (which later morphed into Presbyterian Border Outreach), because this collection of stories features me at my most rugged (and, of course, the punchline of the story that I shared is that me, at my most rugged, is not very rugged at all).
The story about busting rock on the side of a mountain in Mexico is set outdoors and with a group. As I have listened to Scouts share their stories over the years, I know that camping in the mountains with people who make you laugh, learn and love is a big part of the appeal.
Scouting in the United States is changing, and soon will look more like Scouting in other parts of the world. Given the theme of yesterday’s service, I suppose that one might say that a transfiguration of sorts is taking place. As these changes unfold, I hope that this change will not be experienced as loss and that there will not be too much anxiety about the future (although I recognize that a little anxiety about evolution is natural).
Scouts, like churches, strive to serve God and neighbor to the utmost of their ability, and such senses of calling are constantly driving us to update and expand our skill sets according to God’s will for us all.
One of the highlights of yesterday’s service, as far as I am concerned, was when I invited everyone who has ever been part of Scouting to stand, and three-quarters of the congregation, maybe more, stood up. Nothing illustrates the church’s commitment to Scouting or gives me hope for the future of Scouting at SJPC as does this scene.
The future of Scouting at SJPC is bright. I pray, to quote yesterday’s New Testament reading: that it is “dazzling white.”