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We had a celebration at my church today in honor of our pastor’s 25th anniversary of his ordination (when he officially was ordained as a Lutheran pastor). Five years ago we had a banquet to celebrate the 20th anniversary.  That was a huge affair with about 130 people crammed into our fellowship hall.  We had a full meal and then Pastor was presented with all kinds of gifts and accolades.  It not only was a big party but it was a surprise party.  Somehow we managed to plan a banquet for him and he didn’t have a clue it was happening.  We billed it as a Father/Son banquet, which was supposed to be following up the previous year’s Mother/Daughter banquet.  But it was secretly a surprise party for him and he was very surprised.

When I found out at the Synod Assembly that it was his 25th anniversary this year, I mentioned that maybe we ought to do the surprise party again.  He nixed that idea as soon as it came out of my mouth.  Not to be deterred, I thought about it overnight and the next day presented him with the idea of a potluck meal followed by planting a tree in his honor on the church grounds.  He agreed to that and the planning began.

He had suggested that we try to hold it when his mom was visiting at the end of August.  That seemed like a good idea.  I coordinated with his wife’s work schedule (important that she be there) and we picked August 29th as the day.  Then it was just a matter of posting a notice on the board in the Narthex and having a sign up sheet for people to bring food. The rest seemed pretty easy to me.  We have a regular committee who handles events like this so they were asked to help and they said they were available for the setting up, managing and cleaning up.  One of the women at church is practicing making a wedding cake for her son’s wedding and she volunteered to make a cake.  The other tasks to be done were buying a tree (my job), announcing the event at every service for the past month and taking care of all the sniggly details (what to serve to drink, tablecloths or not, where to set up the food, flowers for the tables, etc).

Two weeks ago I checked the sign up and there were maybe 12 to 15 people on the list.  I thought that was pretty good for an event taking place after the second service on a Sunday in August. Most people are busy with family things, going to the beach or on vacation.  But just in case, I added an extra sheet to the bottom of the sign up in case more people wanted to come.  On Saturday, we added up the number of people and it stood at 30.  Ok, that is an even better number. Thirty people for a potluck dinner is more than I expected and it was going to be that much more fun!

On Sunday, we set up eight tables with eight chairs around each table.  64 places…just in case.  We figured there would be a couple of empty chairs at each table but that would be all right.  Then the food started arriving.  We had some stuff left over from the funeral reception the day before but we managed to arrange things nicely so that the salads were together, then the sandwiches then the hot dishes.  Then more food started coming.  And more, and more, and more.

People started coming into the fellowship hall after the late service and the hall started filling up.  We had everyone sit down before starting the buffet line and the tables started to look pretty full.  After the opening introduction, a prayer and pastor starting the buffet line, people began filing through the line past the food.  After everyone had picked up their meal, I stood and counted the participants.  I came up with 55.  A friend said it looked like more than that and someone suggested that I count the number of seats (64) and subtract the empty chairs.  It came to 60 people.

SIXTY people!!  Wow…and again I say…WOW.  When I first started planning this, I really thought 15 or 20.  I was very pleased at 30.  But 60!! Way beyond my expectations.

After the meal, we had a few short speeches in honor of pastor.  Then we went out to plant the tree (variegated dogwood that will have red branches in the winter and white flowers in the spring) and, after the planting, came back in to cut into the cake (two tiered cake, no less) and have desert.

All in all, it was a wonderful party.  It ran so smoothly with only a few very minor glitches (one thing is that I forgot to write something or ask someone else to write something to say for the tree planting but I managed to improvise a little speech on the spot).

I have planned a couple of things in the past few years at church that kind of fizzled.  I was getting a little discouraged.  I am so pleased this turned out so well.  I am very grateful that other people were willing to manage it and make sure that everything went smoothly.  I am also very grateful to everyone I put on the spot and asked them to do something at the last minute.  No one said no but graciously stepped up.  It was a simple event but everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.  I was smiling the whole way home and even now, it puts a smile on my face.

I truly appreciate all that our pastor has to do and all he has to put up with.  I have told him before that his job seems to be like herding cats.  So many different problems and personalities to deal with and he does it with such grace and ease.  But I know he must get stressed and I hope, in the future, he will think back on these celebrations of his anniversaries and realize how much we appreciate and support him.

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