Greetings from Jersey, in the Channel Islands of the UK!
I was invited here for a 36 hour continuous worship event called Lovesong for Jesus, a Pentecost celebration. The friends who invited me here are Jenny and Julius, natives of Jersey who I met at the Feast of Tabernacles in Kalisz, Poland. Jenny and Julius are musicians who also sing. I do not play an instrument, and, well, let’s put it this way: I’m not known for my singing. Jenny and Julius know this, so I didn’t hesitate when invited, and I saw that my calendar was open for this weekend. Then I was surprised to find that my name was on the list of worship leaders. I protested, and Jenny just laughed it off, saying that I’m a worshiper, even if I’m not musical.
I didn’t want to back out and not come, and didn’t even seriously consider doing so. But what in the world was I going to do for a whole hour—or at least what would I do that anybody other than God would want to hear or participate in?
As the time came closer to my session, I realized that I would probably get little sleep anyway, so I decided to spend all night in the church before my session, which was set for seven on Sunday morning. With the front doors wide open, the chilly night air rendered the church freezing cold. I had brought a poncho, but wished for a blanket. I looked a warm corner in which to snooze, but found nothing that worked that wasn’t already occupied. So I passed the night listening to the worship, dozing and jerking awake.
At the three AM session, something wonderful happened. My friends, Bill and Natalie were playing, and I was feeling grateful to be there to hear them. Then the bars closed, and suddenly the church was full of people. One young man was so enamored of the music that he clapped at the end of the song. Despite his long dreadlocks, he didn’t seem to feel out of place, as some of his friends clearly did. As the next song started, he asked if he could play the drums (since they had no drummer). Bill and Natalie enthusiastically welcomed his musical contribution, which was actually pretty good. The whole time his face beamed with the most beautiful smile. When that song was over, he said goodbye, since his friends had already left. He quietly confided to Natalie that he had been drinking, but she just responded with a smile because she knew that—we all knew that. I was suddenly very glad that the church had left the doors open all night. It was worth a little discomfort to have seen such a meaningful connection with people who might otherwise never have entered a church. Well, at least one of them!
Then as my hour approached, my prayers got all the more fervent, begging the Holy Spirit to be there with me. I had an idea of what to do: to worship God by naming His many Names and attributes. So I went to a table in the foyer, pulled out a pen and paper, and began to write. But soon I was interrupted by a new friend who wanted to talk.
I stopped writing, and talked with him. He was there with his sister, who had a dog with her. The dog was a friendly and well-behaved Australian Shepherd. He saw that the dog and I had been drawn to one another (most dogs know who loves them). So he started to tell me about Canine Evangelism, which is something he heard about in Cardiff, Wales. He said that there is a neighborhood in Cardiff where unemployment has lasted for three generations. He said that along with the hopelessness that such long-standing unemployment brings, there is also the alcoholism and drug abuse that frequently goes along with it. Then one day a Christian woman was walking her dog, and a child was drawn to the dog (much as I had been to his sister’s dog). The little girl was with her unemployed dad and grandfather. As child and dog bonded, a friendship formed between dog owner and the adults. Friendship led to a shared coffee, and that led to sharing the Gospel message. What had seemed a coincidence turned out to be a “Godincidence.” I love God’s many creative ways of reaching out to people to give them hope.
Now, I had just an hour before my set. In desperation, I asked, “Do You have a word for me?” And the Lord responded by speaking very slowly and clearly in my mind: “Psalm 81, verse 10.” I grabbed my Bible and found the verse, which says: “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.” That was just what I had wanted to hear!
When I went forward to do my session, I took the papers that I had written on, and began praising God by His Names. The worshipers from the previous session stayed and played and joined me, with singing and music. Sometimes we sang, sometimes we riffed, sometimes we prayed, but it had all been led by the Holy Spirit. And too soon it was over, and the next people entered and began.
As I left the church, I felt so happy that I wasn’t even tired. I shared all this with Angie, my hostess. She caught my joyful enthusiasm, and the two of us, together with her twin sister, had church in her living room, first century style. It wasn’t until after lunch that the fatigue of a night without sleep overtook me. I had a long nap before we returned to the church for the closing session.
This has been an amazing weekend! God is good!