Today was our third Gospel Vespers service. Our gospel theme for today was the Prodigal Son.
I was really excited about today's service as my lovely friend, Aileen Lombardo, was scheduled as our music leader. Aileen and I met because we both teach baby music classes. We went out to lunch together, and within minutes, we found out that we're both Christians and we both sing gospel music. Don't tell me God's not in that?
It was great to see so many people brave the rain to join our congregation. The church was quite full when Aileen started the service. Accompanied by her partner, Jason Matta, on piano, Aileen lead the congregation in several praise and worship songs.
Dad did the sermon, and he based it on Rembrandt's painting "The Return of the Prodigal Son". He put the image up on the screen, and gave a great message on forgiveness. We then turned down the lights, and lit a candle for forgiveness. Dad kept the image up for most of the service, and it became a great point of meditation. It's amazing how much of the music and prayer were reflected in that awesome painting.
Aileen and Jason continued the service with more music and prayer. I just love Aileen's voice, but even more so, I just love her commitment to ministry. At one point, she sang the first verse of Amazing Grace acapella. Her heart and story filled every part of the song. It was beautiful.
We also tried something new and pretty daring in an Anglican church - We opened the gates for an altar call! It wasn't big or dramatic. We just let people know that if they were interested in committing their lives to Christ, they could do it here and today. We also let them know that they could pray with the clergy or musicians if they wanted to. If we're going to be inviting non-Christians into the church, we need to let them know what to do if they decide they want to join us. No one came up to the front, but what I'm hoping is that maybe we planted the seeds in some one's heart. Maybe they didn't come up to the front today, but perhaps they will another day? Or perhaps they made the commitment to God in their hearts? I just want to give people the opportunity and the safe place to discover God.
What a blessing this service is to all of us! It is only our third service, and there are still some technical things we need to work on. But I think the spirit is right. People are coming and responding. And I believe God is well-pleased. He is welcome in this place!