No one expected a call from O.J., the Lake Mary Campus Minister, that Saturday afternoon. No one expected that we wouldn’t be able to occupy Lake Mary’s building the next morning for services. The band wasn’t anticipating setting up in the Breezeway, and Teaching Minister, Jim Keller, was prepared to preach from a stage, not a sidewalk. No one expected to have church in a parking lot that day, but that’s exactly what happened.
The band’s morning rehearsal serenaded the staff and volunteers who carried the 200 plus chairs outside, as the First Impressions teams formed a plan of where to best greet from and where the incredibly important Sunday morning coffee would be served. And then, just as it does each Sunday, church happened.
O.J. explained to the intrigued crowd how the far section of the building that the Lake Mary Campus meets in (which is occupied by another business) had been found to have some structural damage inside. They didn’t know for sure how it got there, so no one could be sure that the rest of the building was safe for us to use. So here we were, worshiping together in a parking lot.
No one seemed to mind that the location of next week’s worship service was still up in the air, just as long they would be together. And as the last song of the morning was sung and “you are here, you are holy, we are standing in your glory!” rang out across the parking lot, there was no doubt that it was true; God was there.
Inspections went on throughout the next week and the Summit staff was told that they could be waiting a while to hear when they could re-enter the building. So another plan was formed. If a worship service in a parking lot could take shape overnight, just imagine what they could do with five days and the YMCA!
Setting up for church on a Saturday night was far from foreign to the Lake Mary Campus volunteers who spent almost three years in their early days holding Sunday services in Lake Mary High School. So a team pulled together; some of the campus’ old pros showing the ropes to the newer Lake Mary folks who, together, turned a gymnasium into a church. First Impressions and Base Camp volunteers really kicked it up a notch that Sunday morning. There’s no way that you’ve ever felt this welcome in a weight room before, and surely no child has ever learned that much about Jesus in a zumba classroom.
As another service ended, having heard from God in yet another unusual place, the church family was asked to pray. God had been faithful this whole time, yet it wasn’t far from everyone’s minds that Christmas Eve was now just six short days away. They prayed for an exceptionally speedy clearance of the building, but more importantly, they prayed for God to put them exactly where he wanted them to celebrate the birth of his son this year.
No one expected to be out of the building for two weeks, but God knew how the staff and volunteer teams would pull together to make worship unforgettable no matter where it happened. No one expected for our fresh Christmas trees to stand alone for half of advent, but God knew that not being in our building at this exact time would allow a new family to start attending despite a pine tree allergy. And, at this point, no one really expected what came the following Monday morning. But God had known the whole time what news was coming our way just a few days before Christmas—the building was deemed safe to occupy!
Christmas Eve came with all the joy and celebration you would expect, but with just a dash of extra excitement to be in a place that felt like home. And though it felt like home, the previous two weeks brought with it the reminder that it’s not. Because of what Jesus was sent here to do, the church can be the church no matter where they are. As candles were held high across the Sanctuary, the very same voices that rang across the parking lot and in a YMCA gymnasium sang of the silent night that brought our Savior into the world. And because of that, he is here, he is holy, and, no matter where we may be, we get to stand in his glory.