This Sunday, several things are happening in and around worship to which I want to call your attention. This is the second week of our Summer Worship schedule, but in some ways it is really the first week that we are doing “Summer Worship” in the sense that we will be doing it for the rest of the summer.

Last Sunday we were treated to the music of our dedicated and talented Handbell Choir throughout the service, for which we were all grateful. However, starting this Sunday, our services in the summer will include musical elements that are typical of both the 9 a.m. Holy Ground Contemporary Service and the 11 a.m. Traditional Service. (Note: If you are joining us online, you will want to tune in shortly before 10 a.m. to enjoy the Prelude selections.)

Second, this Sunday we will begin our Lemonade on the Lawn fellowship time immediately following the 10 a.m. service. This is exactly what it sounds like: a time for fellowship and refreshments after worship and outdoors, now that it is finally warm enough to do so! Elsewhere in the newsletter, you will find information on how to volunteer to help host a Sunday of Lemonade on the Lawn; please consider whether that might be something you can do.

In any case, though, I want to ask you to do something else. Fellowship time at any church, whether coffee or lemonade, can be one of the loneliest places there is for newcomers if church members are not intentional about welcoming them. This Sunday, the sermon will be on the Second Great End of the Church, “The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God,” which is all about creating a community of Christ-like welcome and mutual care.

So it is the perfect Sunday to begin a spiritual discipline of engaging people we don’t know when we come to fellowship time. I don’t mean that you need to ignore your friends, but take a look around when you arrive and, if you see someone you don’t know, introduce yourself and ask them “how long have you been coming to First Pres?” (That way, it doesn’t matter if this is their first time or if they’ve been coming for 30 years and you just haven’t met them, you can have a wonderful conversation either way!)

Then introduce them to your friends so they can be part of the community themselves. It’s a simple act, but it can be literally life-changing; my mother is still an active member at First Presbyterian of Atlanta because of one person who did this for us as a family back in 1983!!

Finally, this Sunday will mark the return of the Sermon Response time that is an integral part of the 9 a.m. Holy Ground Service. When we surveyed the congregation, a majority of people preferred not to have the Sermon Response, in which 10-15 minutes of time is allotted for group conversation, individual reflection, or artistic creation in response to the day’s sermon, as part of the Summer Worship experience the way we did last year.

Yet we also know that is one of the most important elements of the 9 a.m. service for many of its regulars. So: we have set up tables in the air-conditioned comfort of the Narthex. If you want to engage in the Sermon Response, after the conclusion of the worship service we invite you to pick up some lemonade outside and then make your way to a table and spend 10-15 minutes responding as usual before you go on your way. We hope this will create space for this worship experience to continue during the summer for those who want it.

In any case, I look forward to being with you in worship on Sunday, whether in person or online!

Grace and Peace,