What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Just when you thought no one was looking...

The church I serve is in located between two movie studios in New York City, and Milton Street is often used as a film location. This has both positive and negative aspects. On days when there's a film crew around it means that parking is almost nonexistant. It also means you may or may not be able to walk down the street for fear of walking through a scene.

On the plus side is a steady stream of location scouts who visit looking to use the church for the film of the week. I've developed a good song and dance about the church building, its various uses and the procedure for cleaning up. Typically, the location scout leaves his or her phone number and calls the next day if he or she need the space.

In it's own way, I find the church's small particiapation in movie making to be a subtle ministry. We have a tramendus opportunity to welcome people. One Sunday early last November, it snowed considerably. As I shoveled the snow out front, a young guy came up and almost begged us to let him use the church later that day. He was an NYU grad student finishing off his film thesis. It was severely low budget, and he planned to feed the crew outside. That was before the snow. With the snow, he wasn't sure what they were going to do. I wasn't sure if I could say 'yes' or 'no.' I had just arrived as the pastor, and didn't want to do anything that might be considered 'out on a limb.' But, I knew that we should open the doors, and so I said yes.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience. Twenty college kids packed the church, and we all had lunch together with them playing the piano and singing. From that point on, we all knew that opening our doors to film crews wasn't about the bit of money they tend to donate to the church - it was about doing ministry.

Today, though, I had a great surprise. One of the location scouts knocked on our door. When I saw him, he let me know that he wasn't visiting about using the space for his latest film. Instead, he and his girlfriend are getting married and they decided to have a minister officiate. The spiritual aspect is important to them. He said that he hadn't had much interaction with churches, but that he had a great experience at our church and he wondered if I would be willing to officiate.

Wow! What a wonderful opportunity! Here is a guy who had a positive interaction with church and wanted to have a church wedding. I know that a lot of ministers would get on their soapbox that he wasn't a member of the church, but I am excited that our little movie ministry helped draw him toward church instead of repell him from it. We've been sucessful!

The hardest part, though, is that I'm not ordained yet. Given all that has happened over the past year, my ordination exams have been tabled. So I'm not sure that I'll be ordained in time to officiate at his wedding. It's far enough in the future that it's a possibility that I might be able to officiate, but still - it's not a done deal. While other ministers may take their ordination for granted, I know that I never will.

In the meantime, though, I plan to go to bed with a smile thinking about the location scout who came back to the church scene. You never know when ministry is happening.


At 1:06 AM, Blogger Songbird said...

First, what a wonderful ministry of outreach!
Second, you might want to check and see just who is allowed to do a wedding in New York. The first wedding I planned to do was for a young woman who had done a lot of babysitting for my children. At the time she got engaged I was on schedule to graduate from seminary, but I didn't have a call yet and therefore my ordination wasn't scheduled. We looked into it and found that by paying a fee of $25 to the the state of Massachusetts, I could do the wedding. As it turned out, I received a call and was ordained a few weeks before the wedding, but it was good to know we could do it anyway.
Also, since you are the called pastor of the church, that may be enough for the state. I would check into that. What is your situation with regard to the sacraments? Does the Reformed Church license pastors to perform them in the local church? We do that in the UCC, where an ordained person is not available to serve for one reason or another. I think if you would do a funeral, there ought to be some way for you to do a wedding.
Wow, I'm full of opinions, aren't I? :-) I think I've stayed up too late. The joys of vacation and no sermon to preach in the morning! (Or to finish writing...)

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Stacey said...

In many states, licensed candidates for ministry (especially those who are contracted pastors of churches) are allowed to perform wedding ceremonies, so you might want to check into that.

For what it's worth, I think that you are doing amazingly hospitable and creative ministry, and I already see you as a colleague in the ministry to which we have been called - ordained or not. Nevertheless, it grieves me that your ordination proceedings are on hold. Waiting and hoping with you...

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Apostle John said...

Loved this post. My church was used as a movie location once. The funniest part of it was having to teach the actor playing the pastor how to dress -- someone had given him a choir stole, which he had put on backwards :)

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Friday Mom said...

You know, I think in some small way that guy ordained you. He offered an outward affirmation of your inward call...isn't that all ordination really is? Of course, I know about all the official stuff; I've had it hanging over my head for years, but I think it's moments like these that keep me going, that remind me Who does the calling and what that real ministry takes place in the interactions with people.

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OCD - try diet coke. ;)


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