I would like to ask you to do an exercise for a moment. Take a moment and reflect on your memories of church. Think wide and far. What memories come to you? Take a moment, I will wait… Does your mind wander to your grandma taking you (or dragging you, as the case may be) to church when you were a child? How about that Christmas Pageant that your child was in for the first time? Who could ever forget so-and-so’s beloved dessert that they would bring to functions? If 100 people answered this question, I would wager that a pattern would form. Memories of loved ones, weddings and funerals, those who mentored and guided, a community that loved and supported- these likely would be the answers that would be given.
Those answers would seem to indicate something else as well- the power and importance of the laity. When I reflect on my life in church, having been at church more often than not, I’m surprised by what doesn’t come to mind. I can remember ministers who were influential in my life, but I recall only a handful of sermons. I can remember the time the power went off during service, so our lay leader Jean pulled out tons of candles to light the sanctuary. Figures and numbers from finance meetings and trustee meetings go from my head, but I sure recall the time Bob and I tried to fill a sink hole and it took over 50 bricks and a load of dirt. We laughed about that for weeks. It’s the connections with members, those type of memories shared, that make a church.
This past Sunday was Laity Sunday. I think its very fitting that Laity Sunday falls on the calendar during pastor appreciation month. In the Methodist church, we believe in the ability and talents of the laity to minister to all people, and so we affirm their gifts and calls. When we were instructed in the gospels to “Pick up your cross and follow me”, this wasn’t a suggestion for clergy only. It was a decree for all people. Laity Sunday was a reminder of that, and a way to celebrate our members and their talents. I am thankful then that we were able to have a Laity Sunday that doubled as an appreciation for our people.
I think of my life, and how much I have been influenced and molded by the laity in my world. It was laity who encouraged me into ministry, who set examples of patience and generosity in my life. It was also laity who helped hold me accountable when I made mistakes. The power and ability of the laity should never go unnoticed. Laity are often among the first to know of folks in distress, to send out a card, to extend the church family by inviting new friends to join in. So, as Laity Sunday now inters our rear-view mirrors for 2022, I just want to state once more, that I am thankful for the laity. Until recently, I have always been laity- but now as a pastor, I continue to grow, be influenced, and be nurtured by all of you and the amazing callings you have in your life that you graciously share. Thank you all.
Paul M. Freeman, MDiv