I have continued to think about our sacred party on Saturday, and marvel at how fully and completely the sprit showed up! Early Saturday morning, while waiting for my car to be serviced, I read a portion of Pat Ramsey’s book on her journey with the Holy Spirit. So, my mind was primed when I arrived at church on Saturday afternoon. Like Becky, I had a moment of panic at the very beginning. I pulled into the parking lot at about 3:35 to unlock the door for Janet and about 20 women filed into the church after me. As one of the hosts of the 4:00 party, it’s unsettling for the guests to arrive before any preparations can be made! As I was entering the kitchen, I breathed a quick, but sincere prayer, asking God to please help us be good hosts and to bless this gathering.
We decided to put out our appetizers as the women buzzed like bees around the round tables, already deeply engaged in conversations. The appetizers quickly disappeared as ham sandwiches were assembled, and other food was arranged on the second table. It was barely even 4:00. That’s when my 2nd wave of panic hit. We had all talked about what food we were going to bring, but we hadn’t discussed any activities. Our early arriving guests were going to be finished eating by 4:30 and our party was supposed to last until 6:00!!
David said he wanted to provide people an opportunity to share Christmas memories and I pulled a page from the youth lock-in activities and created a basket full of Christmas themed charade words. We figured we’d start with the fun, and end with the more serious. The charades turned out to be a good warm-up activity. When that was completed one of the women suggested musical chairs! We set up a long row of at least 25 alternate facing chairs and dear, talented Fred played a host of Christmas songs. I have NEVER seen grown women have so much fun playing musical chairs! We all laughed so hard as we pranced around the chairs and competed for the seats when the music stopped. It ended with Becky and Tonya battling for the final chair! It was a huge hit!
We returned to the tables and began hearing people’s Christmas memories. They brought tears to our eyes. Many said this year was their best Christmas, because it was their first one sober. Previous years were a total blur. Even though they were separated from their families, they recognized the significance of this special time when they were aware of celebrating Christmas with a close group of sisters. The Wayside and Changes women were not the only ones to share. Fred, Kim, Becky and others shared their special stories. Kerry, who came with his ex-wife of 30 years and their grandson, shared his powerful story. (His ex was one who hugged me on the way out and said “this was exactly what I needed this Christmas!”)
As the stories wound down, someone asked if we could sing Christmas carols. Again, I was so very thankful that Fred was there. No one can top his ability to play, sing and improvise! We gathered around the piano and sang and laughed until the ladies realized it was 6:00 and they had to go. The 2 hours of our party were not just filled, they were full of the Holy Spirit and the wondrous presence of Christ Himself, offering His transforming love to all.
As our guests left, they hugged all of us who were serving as hosts and we all probably heard similar words. “Thank you soooo much for having this party for us! I had such a good time.” Or, “This was just was I needed. Thank you sooo much for inviting us.”
As is so often the case, when God shows up in a powerful way, those of us who served as hosts were more blessed than the invited guests. We all just shook our heads in wonder and floated around the kitchen as we cleaned up. Friday Church ministry continues to surprise, amaze and bless. It’s over 8 years old. Only God knows where we can go from here!