We had a weekend to remember around PCC - a truly historic weekend. It was fascinating to see how God worked through our people and some very unusual circumstances. Just a quick overview.
We were gearing up for our Saturday evening service when a terrible storm came across our Powhatan location at about 5 o'clock. I was standing in the Atrium watching the swirling rain when all 4 doors blew open. They were literally sucked out! I was concerned about a tornado at that point. Cars started to pour into the parking lot because (we later learned) one of our huge oaks had fallen into the road, completely blocking route 60. Folks traveling down the road had nowhere to go except PCC. We had an opportunity to show them good hospitality and care. We invited them to come in, out of the storm, and have some coffee, comfort and conversation. I was so proud of our people, who just loved on these folks who weren't trying to come to church but were just looking for a safe place to land for a while.
Of course, with the power out, we couldn't have a normal service. We had no air conditioner, no lights, and we couldn't flush the toilets!
Sometime that evening, I called Dennis Green, who was on his way back to Richmond from northern Virginia. He had GRADUATED from seminary on Saturday.
I guess he thought I was calling to congratulate him, which I did, just before telling him we'd have no DVD for our Westchester campus and the he or Sammy would need to download the message, stay up all night so they could know it really well, and deliver it at WC the next morning! Dennis returned the bad-news favor by telling me that so much rain would make a literal mess of parking cars in the field at the baptism and we might have to shuttle 300-400 people from somewhere up the hill.
When we finally get power back at Powhatan, we learned the lightening had fried part of our lighting system in the big room.
Oh yea...and MORE storms were forecast to come at 4pm Sunday - the exact moment of our baptism!
The bad news was stacking up. But underneath it all was something...Divine. God was reminding us that the great things that happen aren't about how good we are, but about how GREAT HE IS! Our job is to follow, and this is one weekend where I think we did that well. Here's what happened...
Saturday evening, Beth and her team ditched our normal service and quickly developed Plan B - a completely unplugged service...in the Atrium. No lights. Not mics. No hype. Just us, unfiltered, unprojected, unassisted by technology.
And it was very good! I said a few words - 5 minutes of something uninspiring, to be honest, and we thanked God for His power when we had none of our own. We prayed for the people about to be baptized and something mysterious and mighty happened. It's hard to explain, but it was a genuine moment for PCC. Some of our stranded traveler friends stayed and some said they loved our church, felt welcomed, and would come back.
Beth was on a roll with good ideas, too. Earlier in the week, Sammy Frame introduced to us the notion of being live one Sunday (just to do something different) at Westchester AND Powhatan, driving back and forth, instead of being on video at Westchester. (For the record, I thought was a very good idea for sometime down the road. I had no idea we'd be doing it a few days later. That's how God works!) I asked Beth for her opinion about the message for Westchester. We could take the camera and I could film it remotely, or a Campus Pastor could deliver it live while I remained in Powhatan (which is what I told Dennis we would do). She suggested that this was the moment to try Sammy's idea. We had to make a few small adjustments and plan for me being held up in traffic, but it was a great time to try the experiment - and it was so great to be at Westchester AND Powhatan in the same day!
Of course, people wanted to know about the baptism and the predicted storms. I told them we'd figure it out, but I wasn't sure what that meant. By 3:45, we were standing on the banks of the river, keenly aware that we were about to get hammered. Sammy checked the radar on his phone, there was a warning issued with 60 mph winds and hail expected. We sent everyone back to their cars to wait it out. 4:20 was our new target time, and with a little rumble still happening to the south of us, we began.
It was overwhelming, as person after person; family after family; changed life after changed life came into the water to tell the whole world that Jesus is Lord. Several people - like Anna Holland, Chauncey Starkey and Delores Moss - were performing that sacred act for the first time. Angie Frame was my partner when families were baptized, something I count as an honored part of our long ministry together.
I haven't actually gotten a final count, but it was around 80 people - by FAR the largest baptism we've ever done. In fact, it was more people than we've ever seen baptized in an entire year. And yesterday, PCC baptized the 500th person in less than 9 years.
Lots of people worked really hard to make the baptism happen. It would add pages to this post for me to name them all. So I'm only going to name one. Rachel Huff is the most skilled care team leader I can possibly imagine. She has a unique set of gifts, and I'm so thankful she's on our team. You made a real difference yesterday, Rachel, and I thank God for your commitment to the people of our church.
God is always Good. If church had been cancelled and the baptism had been delayed to another day, He would still be Good. But this weekend, He poured His favor on us...just heaped it until it was overflowing. And I am exceedingly grateful to be a part of what He is doing and to be on the unbelievably dedicated team that God has brought to PCC.