Sunday morning began powerfully with the processional of banners around the arena. The multitude of decorated banners, each representing a church group who attended this weekend, reminds us that we are a unique and valued part of the much larger body of Christ. Pilgrimage is a witness to youth across the state who gathered for the same reason — to worship God together.
The House Band once again led us in powerful opening worship that reminded us how much God’s presence moves us to worship with energy and excitement. It can cause us to stop and stand in awe of God’s power and love for us. They led us with the songs Shine, Covenant Prayer, Death Was Arrested, and To The Table.
We responded with as much power and confidence in our voices as those on stage. Hearing the sound of over 3600 voices worshipping together in one place is truly an amazing thing. As we proudly proclaimed, Sunday was an opportunity for us to “bring it all to the table” as we worshiped together one last time this weekend.
Ryleigh St. George and Taryn Wilson of Sharon UMC performed a powerful dance to Reckless Love. They reminded us of how God continues to fight for and reach out to us, no matter where we may be in our relationship with Him. Their worship was evident as they danced on the stage, reminding us that worship takes many forms.
Another opportunity for all of us to be a part of something larger than ourselves this morning was the Youth Service Fund (YSF) offering. YSF is an organization, run by the youth of the North Carolina Conference, that raises money to benefit other youth and their various ministries. The House Band led us in the songs Good Good Father and It Is Well during this time. These songs remind us of how God’s love is always good and moving no matter where we may be or what we are going through. All we need to do is put our trust in God because God’s nature is good and perfect. This offering is just one thing God can use to reach out in love to those around us.
Emily Pierce from Long Memorial UMC shared her testimony with us this morning. She talked about why the verse “I am thankful for the scars because they remind me who you are” from the song Scars means so much to her. Emily shared about how her journey with scoliosis had impacted her faith walk. She reminds us that “God doesn’t promise us an easy path” but that “he promises us he will be there with us [during the hard times].” She shared how recognizing God during the medical procedures had allowed her to get through the procedures easier than when she tried to do it alone. And because she knows how God has used her scars, she can say “she is forever thankful for her scars” because they remind us of who God is. As she said, when you recognize how God can use the scars, He will shatter your perception of what the plan is for your life and show you what he has in store for you.
Sunday’s scripture, 2 Corinthians 12:9, was read by Freya Dahlgren in English and Lukas Smith in German. Jaida Perkinson prayed for us as we prepared to hear the message from Bishop Leonard Fairley.
Bishop Fairley told us that “on a journey like this, the only place we would end up is the table,” where God prepares a place for us. Because no matter how broken we are or the mistakes we have made, we can be mended. He told us that everyone has a place at the table, no matter the background or the journey to it. However, this journey does not end at the table. We cannot just come to the table; we must go out and share it with others, letting them know about their own invitation to the table.
We all sang Jesus Loves Me, acknowledging that we learned the words at a young age. Bishop Fairley then discussed the line “we are weak, but he is strong” and how we should boast in our weaknesses. He reminded us that when we are weak, God can make us stronger, displaying His power and glory. Lovingly surrendering to God our weaknesses, allows Him to transform them into strengths and make them places where other people can see God’s work in us. As Bishop Fairley said, we are all cracked vessels with thorns in our side, but if we allow, God has the power to use those weaknesses for His glory. He called us to the table God has prepared us, where we can “let it go” (Frozen reference intended) to leave all of our brokenness at God’s feet. He reminded us: since it is God’s table, there is a spot at the table for everyone that no one on Earth can take away.
Pilgrimage came together at the table to end the weekend, taking Communion together, experiencing the grace of God together. The House Band helped us to respond by worshiping to Great Are You Lord, No Longer Slaves, You Say, What A Beautiful Name, and Scars. And we left saying, “God, now that I have come to your table, help us to see ourselves through your eyes.” “Give us [a] holy sight that I may be saved and see the world through the unconditional love of God.” If we saw the world that way, how would we interact with the world differently? If we have come to the table and experienced His grace, we cannot help but leave changed.
So until we gather again, “may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace,” while your feet stand firmly on the rock.
*Article written by Adam Hood and Katherine Riley