I love the feeling of pulling out a new calendar and starting to mark it up. First come the important Sundays, feast days, and holidays that dot our Christian calendar. Sometimes these coincide with opportunities for fellowship and celebration. Sometimes, like in Lent, the knee-jerk reaction is to add an education series here or there. Sometimes there are annual service events that happen. Then there are the weekly or monthly anchored events: service times, regular Eucharists at hospitals or nursing homes, etc. And then - as the calendar starts to get sort of messy - it's time to dream.
And this is my favorite part.
What haven't we done in the past that we might do this year? What new opportunities might God be calling us to consider? And then this is where my calendar gets really messy. All of a sudden, it's filled with penciled in ideas and question marks all over the place.
And by the time I'm "done" with it - at least for the day - it's this multi-colored, marked up, crossed out, circled, highlighted mess. And its beautiful. Not because of the colors - and certainly not because of my handwriting - but because it is a plan for the coming season of the church. It's not iron-clad - in fact, before it's time to cast this calendar off next summer, it will be marked up even more than it is now - some pages past the point that they're easily read. But it's beautiful because it is the busy, hopeful, joyful layout of what the parish's life might look like for the next 9-12 months.
Included in it are the service projects, the outreach, the ways in which the people of a parish seek to serve Christ and the community around them. Marked all over it are the places and times when we will gather like Jesus' disciples did in that upper room - breaking bread and sharing it. Interspersed throughout are times when we will intentionally gather to discuss, plan, pray, learn, and dream more about who we are - and who God is calling us to be.
What has been sort of collaborative - between me and the staff and some of the leaders of the parish - becomes a much larger, interactive, messy exchange - a year of experiences - to which all are invited - and at which all are welcome. The possibilities are endless. And the effects of a year in a parish's life - lived well - lived fully - lived joyfully - are also endless. In us and through us, God will do great and miraculous things this year. Some which are already present on this messy calendar - and a great many others that have yet to be revealed.
And its a beautiful thing.