Well, I can’t believe the day finally arrived…and oh what a day it was! I woke up earlier than usual, about 6:30, in anticipation of all this day would be. When I went down finally to enter the church before anyone arrived, Tuana met me and showed me how the bell system works and mentioned that the Rite I service is normally held in the side chapel. He also said, “Normally it is a small group 2-5 people.” As the clock struck 8:30, Dominic Ballyan and I entered the side chapel and I began celebrating our first eucharist at St. Paul’s! There were four of us in all. During the collect for purity, two people( who I later learned were on holiday celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary) wandered in and joined us. And then a group of 26 youth and their leaders from New Covenant School in Lynchburg, VA came and filled the entire side chapel pews! It was wonderful to have so many celebrating and Dominic and I laughed about how full the church felt.
As the 11:00 joint Eucharist approached, more and more people begin arriving at church, some to serve and some who were interested in the mosaics. I had a lovely conversation with some French speaking Belgians who were looking for Abraham Lincoln in the Church Militant section…thank God I have done my reading and studying of these amazing works in our church! As the choir was practicing songs in Spanish, English and Swahili, I showed the Belgians around the church. Then I found out that one of our choir members is from Hickory, NC! She laughed at my y’all’s, and so I promised to lay them on even thicker. 🙂
The 11:00 service began, and I will never forget looking out over such a gorgeous congregation: so many cultures, languages and generations represented. We interpreted the sermon and, though it was quite long, I really was thankful that English and Spanish speakers heard the “same” message yesterday. Although the microphone could not pick up Mercedes’ version, Andrea was able to splice the English version together into an audio file. Way to go Andrea! The worship was joyous and real…the church school presented me with a banner they had made to welcome us to St. Paul’s, and the Latin American youth led a spirit filled song for the congregation. We shared the peace with all gathered and all were fed by the Lord. After the service we shared a reception in the back of the church and I loved being able to see various members of the vestry for the first time since we arrived, and to meet new people whose lives will be linked with ours for years to come. Rain kept us from getting to go to a Carnivale parade afterward, but Aja had so much fun wearing dresses that the Venditti family brought for her. I went to bed last night content and excited about all the blessings God has given us. We are so thankful to know friends and family from all over the world, and to meet so many inspiring and loving followers of Christ in this our new home.