By Dee Swanson
It’s 8:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, and you are scurrying around to get three children fed and dressed. Since you live a 15-minute drive from the church, you know that you must leave by 9:15 if you have any hope of arriving on time for the 9:30 service.
8:52 a.m.: Everyone is fed and dressed. Then your three-year-old trips over a toy in the hallway, cutting his lip; blood is spurting everywhere—on his clothes (and yours), the floor, the walls. Quick change of clothes for him (and you).
9:00 a.m.: It now appears that you are ready to make a dash for the car, but your seven-year-old begins screaming at his ten-year-old sister who has just eaten the last one of his favorite Halloween candies. “You knew that was my favorite. Why did you eat that one?” Using your best negotiating skills, you convince the seven-year-old that just because the candy was the last one in the bowl of Halloween candy, it is not the last one in Virginia Beach. You can find more at the store and will drive there after church.
9:08 a.m.: Out the door on the way to Virginia Beach United Methodist Church.
Scenarios like this are replicated every Sunday morning in many families. The details may differ, but the challenge of getting everyone ready for church is the same, so families frequently arrive harried and rushed. However, harried young families are not the only ones who attend our services. Many arrive harboring other concerns. We cannot know what someone is going through. We don’t wear signs taped to our foreheads that illustrate our struggles that say, “Just diagnosed with cancer,” or “Lost a parent this week,” or “Facing a divorce,” or “Suffered a serious car accident,” or “Fighting drug addiction,” “Can’t pay my bills,” or “Lost my job.”
If we did display such signs, perhaps those around us would be more empathetic. Even though we have no signs displayed on our foreheads, there are Christian volunteers wearing brightly colored vests standing in the parking lots of VBUMC who greet you with an infectious friendly smile as they scour the lot to help you find an open parking spot. Whether a first-time visitor or a member who attends regularly or a person carrying a heavy burden, everyone is greeted with a “Good morning. We’re glad you’re here today!”
For most families, the parking assistants are the first contact they have with VBUMC on Sunday morning. The goal of the parking assistants is not only to help you find a parking place, but also to demonstrate genuine Christian hospitality, “mirroring Christ’s outstretched arms.” This year that volunteer brigade is being helped by the Aldersgate Sunday School class. Recently, the group decided that they wanted to give a boost to their service to the church, so they established what they refer to as Sunday Serve. Instead of meeting for Sunday School on the first Sunday of each month, they choose to volunteer in some special capacity where their services are most needed–ushering, communion helper, nursery assistant, or parking attendant.
Alice Parrish, the leader of the Aldersgate class, explained that the group voted to try the Sunday Serve routine for a year. As a member of VBUMC since 1992, Alice confided that she was impressed with the church from the first time she attended because “everybody seemed so happy to see each other.” That tradition has not changed over the years. Whether you are a first-time visitor, arrive at the last minute with rambunctious children in tow, or a deliberate soul who arrives in time to claim the first parking spot in the lot, the parking assistants will welcome you with the passion, power, and purpose that only come through their faith in Jesus Christ, yearning for an opportunity to answer a call greater than themselves. Our thanks to the Sunday Serve volunteer parking attendants who extend the hand of Christian fellowship to all who attend our Sunday services.