In anticipation of yesterday’s outdoor worship service, an eager crew of volunteers showed up on Saturday morning to help assemble and raise the latest, albeit temporary, feature of our church campus – a 20’x30’ tent.  It was hard not to think back to the days I still refer to as my life as a “Carni.”  I was also reminded of how thankful I am to have those days and that job title far behind me.

In the early years of my restaurant, I partnered with the local brewer to host an annual “Oktoberfest,” just as the town was emptying of its summer tourist crowds.  The primary challenge of an early fall event date for an outdoor event is that the weather is highly unpredictable.  The large city park where we staged our festival of food, beer and music only had a few smaller covered structures and after one particularly cold and rainy year, the brewer and I decided we needed to erect a tent if we were going to be able to guarantee some sort of success.

Recognizing that buying a commercial grade tent was only about three times the cost of renting one, we decided to deepen our partnership and go in together on a 40’x60’ carnival tent.  If you’ve ever attended a large outdoor wedding then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  To help us justify making the large investment, I also expanded our catering operations and pretty soon started renting out our tent, along with our food and drink services.  We estimated that once we had rented the tent out 10 times, we would have had it paid for.  And that didn’t take long.

My tent is still in use at the Red Lodge Ales Brewery

Everyone in our small town and indeed the county, learned quickly that they could rent more affordably from us rather than have a tent delivered from the nearest rental company, 60 miles away.  But being in the tent rental business also meant being in the tent setup business because these structures don’t just appear with the push of a button.  We had to swing sledgehammers, wrestle heavy rolls of vinyl, and pull ropes to raise it all into the air.  Being a “Carni” is definitely a calling only for those with strong backs.

Ultimately, the variety of events that took place under that tent’s protection were made all the more wonderful because of all that effort.  And as much as I remember how tiring it was to raise that tent into the air, the times that were created underneath include some of the experiences of which I am most proud.  That tent proved to be an invaluable tool for hospitality, exactly what it needed to be. I’m certain the same will be said of the effort and the investment our church has made this week.

Let’s give thanks for this new tool for hospitality that has been raised on our campus and all the ways in which it will be put to use this summer.  As such, may God bless this tent…

May the breezes that blow through it remind us of the Spirit’s presence among us.  May the rains that drip off its sides remind us of the waters of our baptisms.  May the shade it provides gives us comfort when we need rest.  And may all who gather underneath come to know the love of God. Amen.

May God’s peace find you this day. – Pastor Peter