The Illinois Marathon was this weekend. Helen ran the half marathon, and Marian went along to support her, cheering her on and meeting her at mile nine to supply her with a banana and granola bar. Thousands of people took part in the full and half marathon, as well as the 10K on Saturday morning. Thousands more ran the 5K on Friday evening. But in order for that to happen, many more people, most of them volunteers, had to work behind the scenes – nearly three thousand of them, according to the official web site. The course had to be set up, streets blocked off, and intersections staffed. The runners’ numbers, t-shirts, and “swag” had to be distributed in the days before the races. This year, the chipped number tags were monitored at least every mile along the way, and an app was made available so that you could follow individual runners. That app let us know exactly when we could expect Helen to enter the stadium at the end of the race. But someone had to set up and then take down the sensors that read the tags and passed along the data to the app. And then there were the water stations, placed at every mile along the route. Each one of them had to be staffed. Then at the end of the race (or, to be precise, the end of the beginning) someone had to load up the hundreds of barriers used to organize the start of the race, and someone else to pick up all of the discarded jackets, plastic bags, etc. that runners left behind at the start. I watched that effort last year when Helen ran the 10K, the last of the three races to be run. And those are just the obvious jobs that needed to get done. I’m sure there are many more that weren’t as obvious, like staffing the medical station at the stadium, or passing out the foil blankets and medals, supplying the runners with food at the stadium, and still others I haven’t thought of. But somebody did think of them, and thousands of people showed up to make for a great experience for all those who ran and even for those like me who just came along to support the runners. It was a very impressive undertaking.
Something similar happened at Grace during Holy Week and Easter just the week before, though of course not nearly on such a massive scale. Still, many people, most of them volunteers, came together and worked to make our many services happen – five of them over four days. Readers, assisting ministers, acolytes, deacons, ushers, cantors, choir members, and instrumentalists. Still others showed up on Friday to set up for the Easter breakfast, provided food for the breakfast, serve the food, and then stuck around to clean up. For me, the highlight was the Easter Vigil, and not just because it’s my favorite service of the whole year, but also because so many people worked to make it happen. Someone set up the bonfire than begins the service, and then tended to it when everyone else went inside. Someone else set up the projector for the images used during the Vigil readings. The youth led us in song after the first reading and acted out the last reading. A team of youth and adults acted out the seventh reading. Someone else set up for communion, and then cleaned up afterwards. And then after the end of the service, a whole bunch of folks stuck around to bring out and arrange the lilies and hydrangeas (each ordered and paid for by someone) in front of the altar for the Easter morning services. And there were still others at work on various tasks behind the scenes whom I have not mentioned.
I am grateful for all those who volunteered for the Illinois Marathon. What a fun morning! But I am much more grateful for all of you at Grace who jumped in to help with all the many tasks that needed to be done during our Holy Week and Easter observances. We couldn’t have done it without you. And this is true not just at Easter, but throughout the year. This congregation depends on you, not just for tasks, but for showing up and being a part of our community of faith. You make a difference! Look for more opportunities in the coming weeks and months.
+ Pastor Chris Repp