What did we learn?

This month we’ve had a couple of all-hands-on-deck, knock-out events here at Springfield. They’ve been fun and they were exhilarating, but now we’re all kind of catching our breath.

Our 250th birthday was just two weeks ago, and then the Tea was just yesterday – that’s kind of a lot!

I want to give my personal thanks to everyone who helped make those occasions a success. It took a lot of people to help!

So, if you brought food; if you helped set up or clean up; if you greeted people, or invited someone, if you played music or helped with publicity or any part of either special event, or even if you just came, thank you so much!

We had people taking pictures. We had people selling books. We had people serving tables. Almost everyone in the meeting participated in some way or other.

But like I said, we’re exhilarated, but we’re all kind of out of breath today. So, I don’t want to lay any new burden on anyone, or ask anyone to do anything. You can all sit back and relax now!

Actually, we’ve been building up to these events for many months. In the case of our 250th anniversary, some of us have been working and planning for a couple of years.

While things are still fresh in our minds, I’d like us to celebrate our celebration a little bit more. I want everyone to be thanked again. And I’d like us all to reflect just a bit about what happened.

We had three amazing events, any one of which would be a red-letter day for Springfield.

We had a concert with hundreds of people here. The music was tremendous! We haven’t had music like that here in a long time.

Birthday Sunday was the largest crowd we’ve seen here in many years. The gathering on the lawn, the worship, and the lunch were all fantastic!

And then the Tea – the wonderful Tea – with all those people here enjoying themselves! We had to postpone the Tea twice because of COVID. It was a real gift to be able to hold it again. Thank you again, to everyone who helped make it happen yesterday.

For today’s Scripture, I want to read something which is probably familiar to you. It was on our bulletin and our newsletter for quite a few years. It’s a promise from the Old Testament, from the prophet Jeremiah, and it goes like this.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from captivity.

I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

I just want to say a couple of things this morning, and then I want to open the time for open worship and sharing.

One of the most aggravating things my teachers used to ask – I always hated when they said it! – was, “What did we learn from this experience?”

It meant we all had to think, and when I was a kid I often didn’t want to think. I wanted to move on to whatever the next thing was.

But it was good! It helps to look back, and realize what happened, and highlight some of the things. Too often we just move on, and we don’t remember till way later.

So, let me start with just a few special things about what happened this month.

#1 – We had a lot of people here this month! We had more people than we’ve had for years at Springfield. We filled this room, and we filled the fellowship hall, twice.

It was such a gift to see everyone, and to hear all those voices, singing praise and thanks to God. We were talking about it for days.

#2 – We had a lot of fun! We worked hard, but it didn’t feel like a burden, because there was so much joy in the air. If I could wish for something, it would be for more people and more joy at Springfield.

#3 – We ate some really good food! Our ordinary potluck and carry-in meals are good, but this was at a whole different level. We had celebration food. We had memorable meals. Not one person left hungry. There was enough, and more than enough, at every table.

I’m told that Max Rees used to say, “Put food on the table, and people will come!” We always need to remember that. Feeding people is one of Springfield’s strengths. It’s one of our gifts.

So many of our positive memories here at Springfield are connected with food. If you ask our people what they remember, they talk about the Fish Frys, and the BBQ dinners, the Brunswick stews, the ham and egg dinners, the picnics and all the other meals we’ve had.

Each meal where there’s more than enough is an echo of those times when Jesus gave thanks, and there was food enough for a thousand people, with baskets left over.

And, as Sandra Culler always reminds us, it’s not just the food, it’s the fellowship. We love the food, but the fellowship is what we remember. The people working together. The happy faces of people who are glad to be here. The pleasure and satisfaction of working together.

Feeding people is a ministry. And as we move forward, I hope we’ll have lots more meals together, and invite lots more people to share them.

# 4 – We spent a lot of time and a lot of effort on publicity. This is something we really can learn from.

For the events this month, we went all out on publicity. We did special mailings. We did newsletter articles. We did Facebook. We did All Call.

We had articles in the newspaper. We had TV reporters. We called the mayor’s office. We sent announcements to every Quaker meeting in the area. We would have sent up smoke signals if we could have.

So many times, publicity is the missing piece in what we do. So, let’s learn from this, and make publicity the first thing that we plan, for every event we put on in the future.

#5 – the other important thing we did, wasn’t just publicity, but inviting people. For months, we made personal invitations to as many people as possible.

Planning a program, or starting a ministry, is only 50% of what we need to do. The other 50% is inviting people to come.

You remember, when Jesus got started, he didn’t tell them all his plan. He said, “Follow me!” He said that to dozens of people, probably hundreds of people.

It was a personal invitation from Jesus, and people couldn’t resist. If we want our church to grow, we all have to start inviting more. We have to start greeting more. We have to put more effort into our welcome, into learning who people are, and saying this isn’t just our home, but it’s their home as well.

This month we threw the doors wide open. And we all saw the result. It was work, but it wasn’t hard to understand.

#6 – We spent a lot of time and effort, making ourselves look good. We had volunteers who weeded out front and put down mulch.

People had signs made. We spent some extra money putting more color into our publicity and our newsletter. Gene spent many extra hours, cleaning the building, and Steven spent many hours, making the front entrance look better.

People brought flowers. People brought tablecloths. For the Tea, people brought their best china from home, and put in all kinds of effort, making their tables look magical.

I can’t begin to tell you how much time and extra effort Tanya spent, putting together the fairy tea for the little ones. That was a first for us, and she hopes it will give them special memories, and bring them back, from all the scattered places families have gone.

Paulo spent so much time, organizing the music and taking it to a whole different level – inviting musicians, borrowing equipment, rehearsing and inspiring people.

We all value the relaxed, come-as-you-are informality and spontaneity of our meeting. But I want us to remember that once in a while, it’s fun and it pays off when we put in that extra effort to look good.
Remember that!

#7 – I’m putting this last, but in many ways it belongs first. I want us all to remember the presence of the Spirit! I think we all felt at all our special events this month.

It’s nice to have a good time. It’s fun to eat delicious food and enjoy fellowship. It’s fantastic that we had so many people here.

But what really made it special, what I hope we remember for many years to com, is how we felt a special blessing of the Holy Spirit in almost everything that happened here.

In the music, in the welcome, in the work we did together, in the hundreds of conversations – we were not alone. We felt the Spirit. Many of us felt that Jesus was beside us, the invisible presence in our midst. We felt blessed in so many ways.

I hope that we always remember that. God has not forgotten us. God is not done with our meeting. We proved that. We experienced that. It was real, and it is real.

The people who came here before us, blessed us. All the people who came here for our special events this month, blessed us. The Holy Spirit, blessed us.

Always remember. Never forget.

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