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Homecoming on the Grounds

Do you miss Homecoming? I do, too. Deeply. Though the COVID experience has disrupted our ability to celebrate Yates’ birthdays the past couple of Octobers, there’s good news. A birthday party is coming this month! I hope you’ll come and celebrate Yates’ 144th birthday at a Homecoming Cookout on the grounds on Sunday evening, October 9, at 5:00 pm. Together, we will enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs and some picnic sides (vegetarian burgers will be available for those who require them). We’ll hear special music by the Continentals, play lawn games and all we ask is that you bring a favorite side or dessert to add to the feast.

Bring yourself and your household, including your pet if you wish (leashed or otherwise contained, as appropriate!). Come with a lawn chair or picnic blanket, and don’t forget to bring a favorite side or dessert to share. That side and dessert request is optional, but it is a helpful way to fill out the banquet table and I love it when Yates cooks.

In some ways, this is similar to the way we have done Homecoming in the past. Also, it is a recognition of our need to build on what has worked for us in recent days. This summer’s experience together as we shared an evening picnic with great big band music inspired us to try something a little different this year to see if we can get back into the rhythm of things.

Over the years of my ministry, I have had to grow into the experience of homecoming. It is not a tradition that my home church ever celebrated. The only associations I have with “homecoming” had to do with high school and all the traditions attached to that: a football game, a dance, corsages and the like. But then, 1990 I played in the homecoming football game and we lost to James wood high school. My date to the homecoming dance told me at the dance she wanted to begin dating someone else. Needless to say, “homecoming” didn’t have the heartwarming associations others bring to it. The corsage I bought my date was very pretty, though.

The churches I have served here in North Carolina have taught me much about homecoming. I have been moved by the joy of reconnecting with longtime friends in faith. I have been inspired by the look back to the lives and shared experiences that shaped the church’s character. I have been renewed by remembering but it is through Christ and in Christ that the church exists and leans into its future.

I often turn to the homecoming prayer written by the great pastor and teacher John Killinger to set the tone for what Homecoming can be for a church. I share it with you to see if it fires your imagination about what we might share in a couple of weeks.:

It is always good to go home, O God.

We are grateful that our final home is in you, for that is where our hearts are. But in the meantime it is wonderful to return to our earthly roots, and to celebrate the sense of joy and familiarity we feel when we go there…

It reminds us that the whole earth is yours, and that wherever we go, we are still part of a larger family. We thank you for the things about home that remain comfortable to us—the good people we knew, the memories that are rekindled when we return, the places where we once walked and sat and studied, the stores where we shopped, the church where they sing the old songs, pray real prayers, and declare the gospel the way they always did.

And we thank you for what those returning bring to us at home—a sense of freshness, a reminder that there is a world out there beyond the one we know, a witness to the power of the church and the congregation to draw them back, and a testimony to the way the gospel continues to go out from this place to the farthest corners of the earth.

Give us an assurance that life goes on and is good, and the knowledge that our fellowship in you can never be broken, regardless of how far we roam or what we do.

Let the spirit of Christ reign in our hearts today, and make us glad together. And let your name be glorified in the renewal we experience. For you are our God, and we have never forgotten it!

Let it be so.

Grace & Peace,

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