If the Lord was looking for us last night at the church building, we’re going to have to get on the next boat. All of Central assembled at the new downtown Amarillo ballpark last night for dollar hot dogs and the Sod Poodles game. It was the second event of our “Together@Central” summer Wednesday night series, in which our whole church is celebrating the relationships we have with each other in several unique worship and entertainment settings. (As always, click on the image for the full size.)
The weather was perfect, the food was good, and the atmosphere was fun and relaxed as more than 250 of us hung out in the right field seats and concourse. The Poodles beat the Northwest Arkansas Naturals 4-1 to pull to within a half game of first place in the Texas League South. But I didn’t realize until this morning that Amarillo’s manager had been ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes and that the Poodles’ starting pitcher threw seven innings of shutout ball. Baseball wasn’t really the focus last night; I didn’t see a whole lot of the actual game. Baseball was just the setting. Enjoying each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, getting caught up with my church family — that was the point. And it worked.
Somehow we pulled it off: skipping church to go to a baseball game. It worked. I haven’t heard a single complaint. Instead, I’ve heard dozens of “thank yous” and received lots of gratitude. We saw people at the game last night who haven’t attended a Wednesday night event at Central in decades! We saw several visitors to our church who’ve just started coming to Central and are wanting to learn more and make some connections. So we got caught up with each other and most of us made some new friends, too.
We’re coming through the end of a stressful time at Central. The Ignite campaign and the disruptive construction that came with it, the youth minister vacancy, search process, and hire, and our teaching and transition to an expansion of the public service roles for women during our Sunday morning assemblies — all of that has fatigued various pockets of people in our church family. I think our whole congregation probably feels the cumulative effect of so much “work” in such a concentrated period of time. We might be a tad drained. So just chilling together on Wednesday nights feels like the right thing to do. Reminding ourselves of the great value of the relationships we have together in Christ. Just worshiping God — singing familiar songs and praying together — in different environments that re-awaken us to the blessings we enjoy in Christ. And eating nachos together, talking about the kids, cheering on the local baseball team, hearing stories from the folks who’ve seen it all in this town, and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame!” That’s good, too.
God wasn’t looking for us last night. He knew exactly where we were. Because he was with us.