Merriam Webster defines birthday as
1 a: the day of a person's birth
b: a day of origin
2: an anniversary of a birth
Before birth, comes a time of preparation. All living creatures that give birth have a time of pregnancy first. When a child is expected, there is a time of pregnancy as well as preparation; buying clothes, furniture, diapers, food and announcing the expected birth. We raise cattle and there is always a time of excitement and preparation before calving begins. We need to get the calving pens ready, purchase medical supplies, stock up the barn refrigerator and put up the cot for long nights. Excitement builds as a "birth" day approaches. When labor begins, there is great expectation and some anxiety. Will everything go well? What will the new "baby" look like? What will be the personality? Will "it" be healthy? How will our life change?
As I look back to the beginning of Hope Community Church, it was like a birth. The district church planter met with pastors from Lakes Community in Alexandria and the Morris Evangelical Free church in prayer to begin planning for a church plant in the Minnewaska Area. Six couples then came together and committed to pray, meet weekly for a year, serve well and give financially to prepare for the "birth" of Hope Community Church. During that time we developed relationships, chose a name, hired a pastor, set up administrative processes, came up with a vision, found a place to meet, purchased equipment, decided who would be in charge of the different ministries, and decided how the first service would look.
When we set a date, "the birth", in June 2002 for our first public service in the auditorium of Minnewaska High School, there was great anticipation, excitement and some anxiety. Would anyone show up? Would they like us? Would the worship go well? Would they like our donuts and coffee? Would they come again? What will we do if no one ever shows up? People did show up, although not a lot at first, and some liked us and stayed. We celebrated! The first year or two was exciting and tiring as we served in this new ministry that God gave life to.
Over the last 20 years, as with any life, there were trials and celebrations and growing pains and maturity. I remember our most important vision clearly and it was that we wanted Jesus to be the head and we wanted our ministry focus to be "relationships, relationships, relationships." I hope you have all seen that vision played out at Hope Community Church.
Happy 20th Birthday, Hope Community!