Woodbrook Baptist Church celebrated its 140th anniversary a couple of weekends ago! As part of that Sunday’s worship, we dedicated the oldest part of the church facility (built in 1969) that now holds our Fellowship Hall (that used to be the sanctuary before the “new” sanctuary was built in 1996). It includes, as well, educational space, our weekday early education ministry, and offices.
Before I share with you the Litany of Dedication, here’s Woodbrook’s Church Covenant:
Trusting that we have been brought by divine grace
to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ,
we now solemnly covenant with each other that God enabling us:
We will walk together in Christian love,
exercising care and watchfulness over each other;
We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves for worship
nor omit the disciplines of Bible study and prayer;
We will participate in each other’s joys,
and will bear with tenderness and sympathy
each other’s burdens and sorrows;
We will endeavor to bring up those who are under our care
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;
We will labor together as faithful stewards
to support a vibrant ministry
and endeavor by example and effort to lead others to Christ.
We will seek throughout life to live to the glory of Him
who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Our church covenant is reaffirmed in unison each time we celebrate communion. Now, listen for echoes of that covenant in this dedication:
This is a place:
bricks and mortar—configured just so,
plumbing, electricity, windows to let in the light,
with an address on Stevenson Lane for the past 42 years.
And yet, those with eyes to see, see so much more than simply a place.
For this is a place of covenant, and as a place of covenant,
promises and commitments made permeate a structure
designed to bear the burdens and sorrows of living with tenderness and sympathy—
even as those same promises and commitments made
encourage us to explore the treasured property
of participating in the shared joys of living.
Regular Bible study and prayer imbue with discipline these grounds
for exercising such care and watchfulness over each other.
As a place of covenant, this is a building
where by example and effort, we seek to build each other up
in the nurture and admonition of God.
And hope continues to pervade every corner of these premises
that a community walking together in Christian love creates an ever greater facility
for assembling to worship, to fellowship, to grow and to serve—
creates a site for sore I’s—
a place so saturated with the life of the community
(manifest in family dedications and baptisms,
weddings and anniversary celebrations,
in funerals, meals and conversations)—
the very walls steeped in the laughter of fun and games and celebration,
and the cries of children who ran amuck and are now
the parents telling their children not to run amuck—
with floors that have soaked up years of tears of griefs and concerns—
ceilings infused with the prayers that have risen—with voices raised in song—
a place instilled with story—
with God’s story investing in our stories—
that this place feels so much bigger than it could possibly be
(like another world in a wardrobe)
addressing our community as a witness to that other world.
And yet, this a place not dedicated because it (unfinished) long awaited a sanctuary.
And yet (even with a sanctuary constructed) this place of covenant was not—
could not be—supplanted by a sanctuary.
It is, after all, part of a living sanctuary.
Yes, it’s a place—bricks and mortar just so.
For like living stones, generations have let themselves
be built, by divine grace, into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood,
to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5),
and the living water flows, and it’s electric!—
though still (even with a completed sanctuary) unfinished,
in faithful stewardship and vibrant ministry filled full,
still awaiting fulfillment.
And the windows, for those with eyes to see,
let out the light to the glory of God who calls us out of darkness
into the marvelous light of those brought together in Jesus’ name.