Imagine a beautiful, old church with an aged wooden floor, an elevated pulpit, columns holding up three separate balconies, and a wide spiral staircase leading to the balconies that overlook the main sanctuary. The smell of old wood mixed with perfumes permeate the space and entering the building is like stepping back in time. Stained glass windows allow just enough light into the space to make streams of sun rays an evident part of the place. The energy alone makes this historic place current.
The day I entered this historic church in South Africa, a congregation was celebrating Mother’s Day and after their service and celebration ended, attendees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Missionary (YAM) Summit held their worship service in the same space. I entered the sanctuary during the end of the Mother’s Day service and found a seat in the balcony as I waited for the start of the YAM service since I was a part of the summit. During my time with this congregation, two musicians, a drummer, and keyboardist played “Momma” by Boyz II Men while young kids danced in celebration. After this performance, the school age children in the church sang and acted out a beautiful tribute to mothers. The performance closed with the youth giving gifts to all the mothers. When the gift giving finished, the pastor dismissed the service with a benediction.
After the dismissal, the keyboardist began to break down his keyboard, the drummer dismantled his drums and all the evidence of the Mother’s Day celebration began to disappear. Since I was in the balcony area, I had a great view of all the movement. The phrase “as these go, may others come” became something new to me as I witnessed the transition from one service to another. The sight of one congregation leaving and another congregation coming was very chaotic. There were people everywhere during the transition and the transition seemed less than seamless. While the first group of congregants began to leave and take all evidence of their service away, people began entering the sanctuary for the YAM service. People were bringing chairs, tablecloths, and microphones into the sanctuary. Conversations filled the space and people began to find places to sit. I had a sensory overload while observing the transition.
However, in the midst of the perceived chaos, I began to hear a song. A song of praise sang with joy and enthusiasm. I began to see dancing, dancing with energy and jubilation. I began to see smiles that come from a place of love. I began to feel relief from what seemed like a chaotic transition. There was no longer evidence of the first service and worship and praise filled the sanctuary.
The transition from one service to another didn’t take more than 10 minutes. What seemed crazy and chaotic was actually smooth and seamless. What seemed long and confusing, was actually quick and simple. When I realized the transition wasn’t as chaotic as I initially thought, I got emotional and the words, “trust the transition” fell upon me. Shortly after my aha moment, the second service began.
I would never have imagined that I would witness such a transition in this beautiful, historic church in South Africa. As I reflect on the experience, I realize the unknown lies on the other side of the transition. The uncertainty of the “other side” is overwhelming like the transition of the services I saw. When we go from one job to another, from one place of residence to another, from single to married, from married to divorced, from pregnancy to birth, or from life to death there is not always a clear picture of what is on the other side of the transition. However, it’s ok to have joy and celebration in the midst of what seems like an overwhelming transition, just as I saw in South Africa. I am so thankful for my experience in the beautiful church because in that moment in my life I learned to praise through change and to trust the transition!