It’s been a few weeks since I’ve opened my front door. A pair of enterprising birds decided that my winter wreath would make an excellent place for a nest. I had initially ignored the random twigs I saw in the wreath and thought they were nothing more than a reminder of an early spring storm.
But soon enough the chirping sounds and the growing twig collection made me realize that my front door was no longer my own. It has been a good exercise. Now I gather my mail and walk to the back door. I meet the occasional food delivery person sitting on my front steps. I only occasionally complain when a box is heavy or the day too rainy. Sometimes I explain to the delivery folks it’s because of the birds, but I usually enjoy their bright chirping and make my way back inside. I am amazed at how quickly we adjust to new patterns and create new routines.
When we introduced Outdoor Family Worship last fall, we weren’t sure what the service would become. Elaborate plans for arrival and contact tracing were explored. Lofty debates over the core aspects of worship were discussed. We even wondered how children would handle wearing masks outside. During the fall, despite and because of those plans, we found a pattern and a routine. It is an ancient pattern: gathering, praying, listening, singing, offering and sending - familiar liturgical bones. It also is new, changing each week - new words written by the children of the congregation, pews made of folding chairs and outspread blankets, the traffic sounds of Montgomery Avenue adding to the offertory, and a Sanctuary that is ever changing with the season and the sky overhead.
The past year has invited all of us to find new ways of practicing and being, changes to our routines that were unexpected and sometimes difficult. But the past year also has given us space to create things that could not have been before. I’m not sure I could have imagined a regular outdoor worship service on the front lawn of the church, but then again, 2020 and 2021 have been years to stretch our imaginations.
As spring blends into summer, we are still worshipping outdoors at 4:00 p.m. on the front lawn. All are welcome to join. Just know the sermons are very short, the songs sometimes have hand gestures, and the elm tree is happy to rain down tiny seed pods. It’s a different service – one that formed because of the strange limitations and needs of this season, and yet something beautiful has emerged. Something new to celebrate and enjoy.
Just yesterday, I was surprised to see two small beaks peeking out of the twigs and demanding attention. At some point in the future, the nest will be empty and my winter wreath can finally be retired. For now I will continue enjoying the bright song and the longer walk and invitation to see God in that new path.