revival |riˈvīvəl| noun, an improvement in the condition or strength of something: a revival in the fortunes of the party | an economic revival.• an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again • a new production of an old play or similar work.• a reawakening of religious fervor, esp. by means of a series of evangelistic meetings: the revivals of the nineteenth century | a wave of religious revival.• a restoration to bodily or mental vigor, to life or consciousness, or to sporting success.
The ecumenical community in Sedan, Kansas, a town of about 1500, called and asked us to come and offer “revival” to their community. Both raised as “PK’s” (Pastors kids), insecurities and unknown expectations of what a revival even meant ran through our minds. All sorts of preconceived notions and past experiences flashed before us and our first reaction was to say no thanks. The challenge; to give it a go or try to control our situation, keeping ourselves in a box, safe and pride in tact.
When we launched on this journey one of our major ideals was and is to be open and available. Obviously, being mobile, we’re much more available and so that doesn’t tend to be a hinderance but openness, that’s more of a daily surrender. It’s easy to just do what we do best and stick to the straight and narrow but we long for more, we long to experience living and breathing life. We long to be stretched beyond our limits, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We have breathed in the fresh and pure air out here on the open road, we have and continue to experience deep reconciliation in our most intimate relationships, we have and continue to see our children flourish and conquer things that we and they never imagined they could, we’ve participated in helps, serving and life with a multitude of communities and have tasted the fruit of those connections. When it comes down to it, we have and continue to experience revival! And so after further conversation, we said yes!
Father Marcus Cunningham of Epiphany Episcopal Church was our host, referred by friends, Bill and Teresa Sergott in Wisconsin (we love referrals!). Marcus, his wife Anne-Marie and his family welcomed us with open arms and show tunes. Yes, we settled in and found a kitchen full of youth dancing and singing show tunes while making dinner. Our children were immediately taken into the fold and they were at home. The Cunningham’s welcome set a great tone and we felt as if we were visiting family or old friends. We shared a similar sense of humer and stories of our history, all of which brought us to the moment we were experiencing with one another.
There was much work to be done, however. And so we hunkered down in our bus and took a crash course in theology 101.
We began to orchestrate three nights of what we hoped would be a breath of fresh air for these kind folks, focusing on faithfulness, community, reconciliation and ultimately on the “Tie that binds” us all together. We wove together songs of old, like How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace and introduced Hollands songs, as well as, The Exchange and No Other, songs by friends, Glenn Kaiser and Mike Troxel. We testified through our personal journey and shared insights from the living word. We offered opportunities for folks to get creative and explore through practical exercises that emphasised community and trust. The photo above was taken during an exercise where each person was given a block of fabric and each row a needle and thread. Participants were asked to sew their swatch to the next persons and so on. The end result was a tapestry of all the participants pieces. The idea was to show how important the “thread” was and how our role as the piece is to be willing to be connected. Finally, we listened. We learned about the town’s history and the different journey’s of local kinfolk, we heard their pain and their joy. We soaked in the stories and offered prayer and counsel.
Every evening before our session we would dine with a different pastoral leader from the town. We meet with the leaders of the First Christian Church, the Assemblies of God, the Baptist and the Episcopal churches. We broke bread and we found common ground with them all. It was encouraging to witness their commitment to one another and willingness to lay down their personal agenda’s and position for the greater communities sake. Really, it is something to make note their willingness to come together and trust us, just a family of folkies making our way, best we can.
Later that week we performed our Australian Folklore workshop at the local elementary school to K-6 graders. We shared in meals with the Cunningham family, helped with a gardening project, went to a high school football game and enjoyed the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables.
We are thankful for this opportunity to study, to share and to be an encouragement. We are thankful for a community that was willing to use us to the fullest. In the end, whether it’s an organized or individual effort to offer revival, we have concluded that it is a good thing. We are excited to have found this new muscle and will continue to offer that breath of fresh air where ever the need might be. Open and available.