Monday, July 13, 2015

Celebrating Birthdays at Church

Yesterday was the 98th birthday of one of our church members.  Our pastor announced the celebration that would begin after the service by saying, "When each of you celebrates your 98th birthdays, we will have a cake for you too."

Actually, we don't have to wait that long.  At our earlier, more interactive service, we had cake--coffee cake and a French toast (with apples) casserole kind of coffee cake--for those of us with July birthdays.  One of those people is me; my birthday is tomorrow.

I had no sense that anyone was planning anything special.  And it really did feel special.  We ate our breakfast, talked about our highs and lows, and then moved back to the worship area for communion.

We're in the fellowship hall, which makes it easy to move from worship space to art space to eating space in a way that traditional worship spaces don't make easy.  There are days I wish we weren't such a hybrid service.  Yesterday I'd have liked to have lingered over our breakfast and discussed how this kind of meal was more like the original communion service than our modern communion services.

I love that this service makes it easier to  feel close to people, to know their birthdays along with their highs and lows.  I love that the larger church family also often celebrates with cake.

In one of my former churches, we had a birthday dinner in winter or spring; it was often potluck.  We set up a table to represent each month, and we had people sit at their birthday month table--or some years, people sat where they wanted.  We sang "Happy Birthday to You" to the whole congregation at once.  At least this way, we know that no one is left out.

I see lots of gnashing of teeth about the declining membership numbers of mainline Protestant churches.  But we often don't talk about some of the benefits.  One of the best parts of being a smaller church is that we get to know each other in a way that we probably wouldn't if we were a big church that worshipped hundreds of people each week--or we'd have to participate in small groups to achieve the same thing.

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