Delighting Farmergirl’s heart is our occasional pastime, and a trip to ECOR does it for her everytime.
As we’d gone to the Evening Prayer service Friday night, we headed out to ECOR’s Grandparents Sunday service and Bar-B-Q (which does not, as it turns out, involve barbecuing any actual grandparents), which kicks off the beginning of the church year, and heralds the return of the “Lake People”*.
*The “Lake People” don’t really exist. They’re like leprechauns or fairies, really . . . they exist in the culture of Spokane (and elsewhere, but they’re particularly pronounced here). During the summer, the population of local churches dwindles as people are “at the lake.” I can say with some authority that the population of lakeside churches does not increase in the summer, they, too, have “Lake People,” an irony which is not lost on me (or, probably, their clergy).
We attended ECOR in the summer of 2002, and returned to it when we moved to Spokane in the summer of 2004. Because having two summers with no intervening months, we weren’t expecting the return of the Lake People in the fall of 2004. Combined with having just left a small church plant (and conditioned from that experience to welcome new faces), we flubbed several times, asking multi-generational Lake People if they were new?
“No, I’ve been going here for 8 years . . .”
“Um, well, hi! I’m new!”
ECOR, like most local churches, has a core of folks who are nearly always there, even during “lake season,” and it has the Fall-through-Spring folks — the Lake People. The weird thing about the Lake People is that, unlike E.B. White, they doesn’t seem to go for a whole month at a time, and they don’t seem to come back to the church when they come back to town. There is one gal I know who goes to the lake for the entire month, but she leaves in September, when all the other Lake People are returned to school and work. It seems, in general, that people need a reason to skip church (for that matter, one generally needs to move out of town to quit a church), and “going to the lake” seems as good as any. For that matter, it’s become an ironclad excuse for skipping in the summer, deeply ingrained into the Spokane culture, crossing most denominations. I hope I am managing to express my amusement a this whole idea . . . because that’s where I am . . . mildly amused. But both (skipping church and leaving a church) are interesting sociological phenomena, as well.
This impulse I have to greet people-whose-faces-are-new-to-me was not eliminated by interfacing with the Lake People in the fall of 2004. For that matter, I’ve come to believe that greeting people is an essential function of the church. So yesterday, I greeted a couple I hadn’t met before, and said, “Are you new here?” before I could even stop myself. Then I continued with, “I really shouldn’t ask that, as I haven’t been here since last year myself, and you could have been going here all these months,” but it turned out it was their very first Sunday at ECOR, having just moved to the Valley from other parts of town. (Whew!)
Fr. Brian preached the Parable of Pike Place Market (my sermon title, I don’t know what his was), about how fun and welcoming and enjoyable Pike Place Market in Seattle is, and how the ECOR ought to be the same . . . or continue being the same (fun and welcoming and enjoyable).
So we’re back to that question of creating community . . .