Our church meets in a school. Monday through Friday students show up with back packs full of books to learn about history, music, science, math, art, literature, writing, and foreign languages. Teachers show up with their lessons planned, activities prepared, ready to pour into the minds and lives of their students. Administrative staff, para-professionals, maintenance staff, everyone shows up to do what it takes to make the school run.
Then on Sunday, the church moves in.
Set-up crews show up hours before the service. The building is a school, not a church. There’s only so much we can do with a space that does not belong to us. We move tables, set up curtains, roll out rugs, put out signs, move in our sound equipment, haul out bins of toys and classroom supplies, and we make space for our people in the school. Trying not to disrupt the Monday through Friday life of the school, we put toddler toys in a class room with geography words hanging on the walls, and student essays stapled to the boards. We set up our sounds equipment on the stage lined with bulletin boards announcing rehearsal dates for the upcoming school theater production. Our welcome table sits in front of a sign encouraging students to “lighten their loads” and carry fewer books in their backpacks. Art projects are in the display cases, and the occasional instrument or lunch box sits in the hallway.
Our people begin to arrive, greeters, welcomers, those who have come early to set up food, teachers, musicians, prayer warriors, they all begin to arrive. Soon there is a steady stream of traffic coming into the building. Old and young, visitors and long time members, noisy children, single adults, retired people. One woman pushes a family member in a wheel chair, one woman guides her husband who is blind, teenagers shuffle in. The church family is arriving for their weekly gathering, their time of worship, learning, and fellowship.
Something happens as the people of God arrive. The Spirit of God arrives.
What was, just a few hours earlier, only a school, has been transformed.
It’s not the signs. It’s not the bins of toys or the rugs. It’s not the food or the coffee. It’s not the instruments or the microphones. It’s not the banners with the church name. It’s the Spirit of God, living in each person, moving through the community of believers, inviting each one of us to fellowship and worship, calling us into deeper relationship with him, transforming, hearts, minds, lives, and even spaces.
When I arrive I am standing in a school. By the time our service starts, I am standing on Holy Ground. Because the presence of God is there with his people.
“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”