This Sunday is Virginia-Highland Church’s 94th birthday. It doesn’t look a day over 70, but there was a time when people thought it would never live this long. The past few years have seen a great rebirth, and it is now a strong, vibrant, serving, diverse congregation. It is the kind of church I always dreamed of being a member of. Black, white, Hispanic, and Asian people gather for worship. They are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight. Miss Blanche joined the church in the earliest days and has remained almost all of her nearly century-long life. We also have a nursery full of babies and toddlers. I love this place.
We try to make worship as meaningful, inspiring, and joy-filled as possible every Sunday. We want to charge people’s spiritual batteries and then turn them loose on an unsuspecting world. We hope for a touch of grace so we can go forth touching the world gracefully.
Missing a Sunday makes me feel like I’ve missed several meals. It isn’t just my experience of God when I worship; it also is the love and touch of people who share my deepest core values. I looked out Sunday when a family arrived late. Two men, three boys, and three cousins. A few years ago their arrival would have increased our attendance by 30 percent. I smiled as they found their places in front of the sign language interpreter because one of the boys is hearing impaired. We started this for him, but several adults have started to join him, enriching our diverse and beautiful family.
A good bit of what is wrong in the world stems from too many of us spending meaningful time only with people who are just like us. We never know the pain and struggles others go through because they are different, or poor, or elderly, or people of color. The harsh divisions in our country are threatening to tear us a part, but I think I’ve found a solution …
Come to church and celebrate our 94th anniversary this Sunday. If we are too far away for you to drive then find, or form, a community like ours where you deliberately choose to look people in the eye with whom you might not see eye-to-eye. Make friends and family out of people who are different, and I promise YOU soon will be different. I think that is why God called us to come together in this weird quirky family we call the church. Only our life together can make us fully alive.
Rev. Michael Piazza