Monday, April 22, 2013

Handbells and the Holy Spirit

When I arrived at the association meeting I parked on the lower level of the lot.  As I was walking toward the building I noticed several parking spaces near the door labeled ELDERLY.  (How considerate. Shout out Broadus Memorial!)  And of course...all around me elderly folks are NOT parking in those spaces.  They're walking up from the lower level with me.  This is a classic move by the Greatest Generation—always thinking of others, always assuming someone else could use help first. We have so much to learn.

I walked inside and found a seat.  I am embarrassed to admit this...but I was not looking forward to the afternoon.  I was tired and not in the mood for an extended meeting.  I share my initial hesitation because it was—hands down—the best association meeting I have attended.

The moderator conducted business at the beginning and end in a timely fashion and the lion share of our time was spent in worship.  Both speakers were exceptional.  The first speaker was chaplain of the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.  I wish you could have heard her.  Julie's frank, yet compassionate words about the prisoners to whom she ministers was inspiring.  She works in the prison every day and organizes worship services on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening.  Worship attendance averages between 150 and 250.  "The gym is transformed into a sanctuary." Her words painted a picture.   It's like we were there.

Julie has organized a worship leadership team of inmates.  There is a choir, praise dance team and (are you ready?)...two handbell groups.  When Julie told us prisoners were playing handbells I was out.  Tuesday afternoons were my favorite as an elementary schooler because John Cashion picked us up for handbell rehearsals.  I loved playing handbells, so the thought of prisoners knowing God's love and playing handbells?  It got very misty in the back row.

So there I was tearing an association meeting...on a Sunday afternoon...because God's love is that surprising and beautiful.  Julie said the women come hungry for the Word and God shows up at the prison.  It was inspiring, friends.  Julie told us "In the midst of this hellhole, God is alive and well."  Thanks be to God.

The second speaker was Dean Miller who works at the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.  Dean gave an excellent presentation on More Than Nets.  I was impressed by project's holistic approach, which not only provides mosquito nets to protect Ghanians from malaria—the project also provides education and funds for church planting.  Hundreds of churches have already been planted by sisters and brothers in Ghana.  Physical needs are being met and the gospel is being preached.  I hope Scottsville Baptist prays about joining in this mission.

We closed worship with communion.  It was special to receive the elements from clergy pals, some of whom I study the Bible with every Wednesday.  As soon as the benediction was offered I couldn't help but blurt out "That was amazing" because it was.  It really was.

I was preparing to leave when lo and behold—a room of snacks was announced.  I mean...icing on the literal cake.  They even had the good cheese.  God bless them.  One of my clergy pals whispered "If we play our cards right, this could be dinner."  For about 12,000 reasons it was a great day to be at a Baptist association meeting.

People lingered and enjoyed one another's company for a long time.  I was handing out my business card like it was going out of style because the Holy Spirit was up in that place.  It was a nice afternoon.
Thanks to all those who planned the meeting.  Well done.  I can't wait for the next one.


  1. Thank you for your upbeat account of the associational meeting as well as other posts on your website. May God continue to bless you and the people of SBC!

    1. Thank you Mike. It was a great meeting. I can't wait to encourage folks to be part of the association.