I am more convinced than ever that showing up is one of the most important things we can do. As a minister serving a new faith community, I have been faced with many opportunities to be present for a variety of gatherings in our neighborhood. It is a dynamic place, so there are a ton of social and service gatherings happening, often simultaneously. Over the past year and a half, I have attended dozens of meetings, celebrations, small business events and neighborhood clean-ups. While I have to be discerning with my time, especially during weekend family time, seldom do I regret choosing to show up.
Showing up communicates something very important to people and groups. One of the first community events I attended was a day of helping a neighbor do some necessary repairs to his home. Thirty or 40 neighbors gathered to be part of the project. I knew one person, the woman who had invited me, and when I arrived I found out she had gotten sick and would not be there. Throughout the morning, I shared in conversation with a variety of people, learned a lot about the neighborhood and received ideas for how our new church should and should not serve in the community. Little did I know then that I was serving alongside some of the community’s most passionate and committed volunteers. Even though I do not yet live in the neighborhood, showing up to events like this has helped me establish credibility and trust with these community leaders. I am no longer an outsider.
Showing up also provides opportunities that you could never plan in advance. One way I show up is at a local coffee shop. Inevitably, when I park myself there for a couple of hours, some sort of encounter happens. It may be a conversation with a stranger, a re-acquaintance or a friend. Several months ago, I went there to do some work on our church’s website. A friend walked in and sat down at the table beside me. We had met only a couple of months earlier, and were still getting to know one another. We exchanged greetings and caught up for a few minutes when he began asking me all about our new church. He was curious about us and what we do, and I knew from past conversations with he and his wife that he had major reservations about church. Our brief conversation turned into him sharing with me about the last church service he attended, the one that made him walk away from practicing any form of religion. As a proud new dad of a baby boy, he could not reconcile the message he heard that day about a biblical character God asked to sacrifice his son. He shared his frustrations, doubts and questions. I listened and shared mine, too.
Showing up is not about having an agenda; it’s about being present with people. It is about choosing to move out of our comfortable places to join others in their places. It is about choosing to go and be, not waiting for people to come to us. It is about being prepared for meaningful encounters like these that will lead to our (and maybe our neighbor’s, too) transformation.