This is the final post in this blog series covering my experience at Winterfest in Gatlinburg, TN. As I have written before in this series, I was deeply touched by this experience.
Day 3 started early at 7:00 a.m. with us singing and praising God through songs. If the first two days were moving, this day put me over the edge but in a great way. Because this was a Sunday morning it somehow felt a little more like church and it had a special feeling. The songs were perfect and the song leader was enthusiastic and full of life. It set the stage perfectly for the morning's lesson.
Patrick Mead came to the stage to deliver a powerful message about all of us needing the church. His Scottish accent in the twang of Tennessee was a humorous addition to his delivery. Sunday morning's message from Patrick centered around our enthusiasm and attitude at church. My biggest take-away was about communion.
Ever since I was little I can remember communion being a somber time during church. Adults hung their heads, children were hushed or quickly taken out of the room if they were fussing, and there were no sounds. The first Sunday morning I attended the Mitchell Church of Christ I was shocked by what I heard. No, not the preaching of Allen Burris, but what I heard during communion. As the plates were being passed around, the congregation sang. Can you believe that?!? Not only was it not quiet but people were actually encouraged to sing during communion. To be honest, I'm not sure I enjoyed it but it was a different experience and I appreciated it.
Patrick encouraged the group to stand up during communion and to talk with each other, encourage each other, and join in fellowship with each other as we all took part in the communion. Somehow I felt closer to others who were in my group and we even branched out to speak with total strangers. Although we didn't know each other we had a connection through communion.
As communion ended we were brought back into the lives of our three teens as they continued their spiritual paths. Sadly, one girl from the video seemed ready to step off of her path. The other girl was ready to stick to her path, no matter how rocky or hard it became.
The boy's path is the one which literally lead me to tears. I'm not sure if it was the experience of my first Winterfest, the spiritual high I was feeling from being surrounded by more Christians than I ever had before, the songs, the communion, the great messages, or something deeper. Whatever it was, I cried. I'm not ashamed to admit that either. It was such a powerful moment. The boy had been through so much and his path had been so tough.
The video cut to him making the decision to be baptized and discussing what that truly means. When the youth minister asked him when he wanted to be baptized the boy answered, "Right now." The scenes were all in slow motion, the music was perfect, and it led viewers into the heart of the scene. We watched as the boy walked from the youth minister's office to a hallway. From the hallway we watched the boy climb a stairway which brought him into a back room where he was ready to change his clothes and his life. We had a front row seat for the boy's decent into the water, pausing to remove his ever-present stocking cap, and then down into the water. While all this is happening we hear nothing but music. No words are allowed to be heard and the visual imagery is all we have of the powerful scene. No words were needed.
The boy is taken down into the water and is baptized. As he comes up out of the water his face is glowing and the smile on his face is infectious. And that's when it happened. I cried. I was so happy for the boy who I didn't even know. This wasn't even a 'real' person. He was an actor playing a part. But what a part to play! I tried to wipe my tears in a macho manly way but to be perfectly honest I didn't care who saw me at that moment. I was so wrapped up in the story and what the story meant.
I couldn't think of a better way to end a great first experience at Winterfest and I'm excited to return next year. In the meantime, it's time to put into practice what I experienced.