Tears at a Wedding

I arrived at the church to make sure things were ready for the couple. They were meeting a photographer early for pictures. The wedding would be an intimate affair in the chancel area of our sanctuary. A grand occasion of a wedding had been planned for later that winter but COVID regulations made it clear that any gathering would have to be very small. With great regret, they gave up on much of the desired fanfare and decided on an evening celebration just with family. When I planned the ceremony with them, I reminded them that this would be their wedding day, albeit much changed in external details. I urged them to shape it with significant details that would give them joy. I was delighted to see the bride, Eleanor, alight from her car wearing a beautiful white gown. The groom donned a handsome suit. Even as COVID kept our communities apart, there would be pictures of a December wedding on a sparkling winter night.

This was a meaningful ceremony for me. The bride’s family joined the church the same year that I was called to serve as pastor. The search committee told me they wanted to grow and needed young families. They were among the first families to join. I visited in their home and met two darling daughters. I commented to the mother about the different gene pools from which her girls drew their DNA. The elder had dark brown eyes and hair, like her papa. Eleanor was fair like her mother, with blonde hair and blue sparkling eyes. She was sweet and shy and seemed most at ease in the embrace of her mom, Sarah. Sarah responded that she didn’t know why God had blessed her with such beautiful children. She meant those words. The dad, Steve, seemed quietly proud of his life as a family man and provider.

Sarah developed cancer several years into her membership in the church. Sometimes her treatments were so destabilizing that she couldn’t drive so church folks picked her up for Bible Study. She seemed to gracefully accept the help of others as she battled a disease that didn’t seem to abate. When we talked about her life-limiting diagnosis, she described her faith journey as a free fall. She couldn’t stop the fall but she trusted God would never let her hit the ground. Wow. Who’s the pastor here?

Early one winter morning I received a call from the Sheriff’s office. I was needed at the home of a member. A woman named Eleanor had succumbed to cancer after a valiant battle. She left behind her beloved husband and children. I made my way to their home where I hugged the husband and wept with him. Two little girls huddled together on the couch, awaiting the arrival of the mortician who would remove their mama from the home she loved…and from their lives.

This was a gut-wrenching loss for me. I gave birth to my fourth child about that time and could not imagine being robbed of the privilege of raising my little ones. I anguished to think of my husband left alone to tend to their needs. At the funeral, we celebrated her life with family members whose faces were pained with grief. I managed to lead the casket to the hearse before fleeing in my clergy robe to weep in the privacy of my office. How could this be? What would become of these children? In whom would this quiet man confide in the dark of night when life’s fears encroached and the needs of his daughters seemed beyond his ken?

The family drifted from the church after a couple of years. I suspect we became a repository of corporate grief for them as our congregants persisted in carrying a deep sadness for the three of them. Occasionally I saw him at the grocery store, always with his children by his side. He remained single and carried a sadness even when he smiled. Or did I just sense the sadness because that’s what I felt?

Several years ago I received a call from the funeral home about a service. A young woman had died of cancer and the family had asked for me. When the undertaker told me the name I exclaimed aloud. Who? How? When? The mortician patiently answered my questions, waiting for me to tell him if I would officiate at the service. I said I would. He gave me the phone number so that I could call the young woman’s father. It was the widower who had lost his first-born daughter to a rare cancer that took her quickly. Once again, I found myself meeting with the family, hugging a bereft father who held himself together remarkably well. But Eleanor cried in my arms and I wept with her. I remembered what she told me at the time of her mother’s death when she was eight years old: I’m going to miss my mommy’s hugs. So I hugged this young woman who grieved the death of her only sibling and stood closely by her father to give him strength.

I carried these memories with me into the church on that snowy wedding night. I wept with my husband at home that day, hoping that my tears at our table would enable me to stay emotionally stable during the service. As I entered my office, I tried to think of anything that might have Sarah’s touch on it. Eleanor’s mother died so long before that I could think of nothing. In looking over my notes for the service I wondered if I had baptized Eleanor. I opened my pastor log and saw that I had! Hers was my first baptism at the church. Shortly after my arrival I had the privilege of anointing this two-month-old baby girl in the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The chancel where Eleanor would be married that night was the same place where her mother, father, and sister had stood as she was welcomed into the embrace of Christ’s Church. God gave me that gift when I was looking for something tangible to present to this bride. This was news I would share in the intimacy of the wedding ceremony.

The bride arrived with her father and maid-of-honor. They brought candles and flowers to arrange in the front of the sanctuary, representing the presence of the mother and sister. They would light those candles near the beginning of the service at my invitation. Also on the table was her mother’s Bible, out of which a cousin would read Paul’s words about love, a sermon he addressed to the Corinthian believers.

I was aware as I started the liturgy that I felt the emotional weight of the occasion. Just a couple of minutes into the service I acknowledged that there was more to our reality than what we see. Our faith assures us that the great cloud of witnesses joins us in these human celebrations. Eleanor and her fiance, Trevor, would light the candles on the altar in honor of her mother and sister. Those were the words I tried to say but they were interrupted by a wave of emotion that prevented me from being able to speak. Finally, with a broken voice, I invited them to light the candles—which they did. The tears released my sadness so that I could continue with the service as planned, even when I spoke of a baptism that happened in that same space for their family years before. I was able to affirm the appropriate re-entry of her mother’s Bible into a sanctuary where she had once held it in her lap in the company her precious family. I appreciated the full-circle significance to the mystery of two lives becoming one on this cold winter’s night. Christmas lights twinkled outside and the incarnation seemed very real in that sacred space. The bride initiated hugs with me twice after the service and I hugged her for her mother. I hugged the graying father who stood with quiet pride alongside of his daughter during the ceremony. After extinguishing the candles and shutting off the lights, I drove home on a sparkly night, crying out to Jesus.

Why was I still grieving the death of that mother? Her departure from this earth and her family seemed so unfair. Was this young mother shocked to find herself enfolded in the bosom of Abraham? Did she desperately search for a way to get back to her elementary school-aged daughters? In a celestial panic, did she assure St. Peter that there had to be some terrible mistake? As she looked in on her sweet family through a telescoping vortex, did she let loose the silent screams of our dreams? Or was she able to flit faithfully among the departed souls, in timeless bliss, knowing that her children would grow in their father’s care without her? Did she have more unfinished business than other saints, trying to part the clouds to glimpse human life lived on a hard planet that sometimes delivers unyielding pain? I wonder if she wished she had the time to teach her girls to tie their shoes and ride a bike. Can we offer virtual hugs from heaven?

The question that gnawed at me cut to the core of Sarah’s free fall theology. Did God fail her in her belief that she would never hit that ground and be taken?

I don’t often question God. I am normally comfortably tethered to a theology of eternal life that assures me that all is well. I trust in an afterlife more beautiful than we can imagine, more peaceful than we’ve ever known. I preach about God’s goodness even if life isn’t fair. But I haven’t had peace about Sarah’s death 20 years ago because two small children and a good man were left behind without the mother and wife who made their house a home. I might have been able to let God off the hook if the elder daughter had not then been stripped from her father’s arms in her early twenties. Her death ripped the crusty bandage off my heart and I stomped my way into God’s presence once again, waving my fist at the Holy of Holies.

Ministering to this family of two, any trite assurances of eternal well-being only added to the sting of untimely death. How could you do this, God of mercy? No wonder this family drifted from the Church! Why does a young bride have to light two candles on the altar of her wedding to invoke the ethereal presence of her mother and sister? As a mother, I grieved for Sarah who was not able to pick out a wedding dress with her daughter or support her husband in the devastating loss of their child. The beautiful trust in Sarah’s free fall theology was mocked.

I came home and continued to weep with my husband. I carried deep grief for this family. Had I whispered “I’m sorry” to this family in so many tender embraces that I did not know how to be joyful with them? Had they possibly fared much better in the grief journey than I? Were my tears disruptive to their wedding celebration?

I found myself lying in bed at night thinking about those tears. I had hoped I would be able to get through that service without crying. But the tears were authentic. I wept for the mother who could not raise her children. I shed tears for the husband who stood alone with his daughter at the altar. I grieved for the beautiful bride whose mother looks back at her from the mirror whether she realizes it or not. I wept that a brown-eyed daughter who so resembled her father would never marry and bring home a brown-eyed baby from the hospital to hand off to her father with quiet pride.

In the dark of night, I wondered if I am crying for my 39-year-old self who lost her mother to cancer much earlier than she or the mother imagined? Was I flashing back to a moment of pushing my mother in a wheelchair through the Cleveland Clinic, knowing her energy and life were ebbing away? Was I remembering when I had to look up the word “palliative” to understand the hospital ward that housed my parents in their last days? Was I grieving the absence of a father who would have been so proud of the ministry work I have been doing? Is it enough to have my parents’ gifts part of the arsenal of personal attributes I use on a daily basis to spread God’s love? Is it enough to have the memories? Or do I, like little Eleanor, still miss my mama’s hugs?

Lying in the frozen silence of a winter night, my mind moved back to my tears. I felt embarrassed. I think of the words to an Annie Dillard poem I read in seminary. Even though my capacity for theological illumination was fairly dim at that early stage in my ministry, I remember the poem clearly. Dillard wrote about a worship experience at an unpretentious congregation on an island where she would spend her summers. One Sunday she took note of the soloist, “a hulking blond girl with chopped hair and big shoulders, who wore tinted spectacles and a long lacy dress, and sang, grinning, to faltering accompaniment, a totally secular song about mountains. Nothing could have been more apparent than that God loved this girl; nothing could more surely convince me of God’s unending mercy than the continued existence on earth of the church.”

In the dark of night, I fell into God’s grace. What I viewed as ugly tears reflected God’s compassion. I borrowed Sarah’s free fall theology and told God that we did pretty good work together that evening. My tears were real. I wept for the past and the changed course of the present moment. I wept for joy that our church could offer genuine hospitality to this family after such a long absence from our building. My tears came from a heart that has been inclined toward this disrupted family for decades. They felt my love and that was evident in their response to me after the ceremony. No one mentioned the tears or reacted negatively to them.

In church we gladly carry each other’s burdens. We dare to hope for the best possible outcome for others and support one another when it feels like God has abandoned us. We accept each other when we are railing at God. When we feel like we are snuggled into Father Abraham’s lap, alongside the panoply of saints who smile among us, we offer that sense of security to others. We have this precious community called “Church.” With all our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and joys, we celebrate that we are in this free fall together! Moments of doubt are allowed to rock my faith. God invites me to express my anger. Jesus tenderly holds me when I weep for a fallen world where death rocks our faith. What matters is that we support each other on the journey. What allows us to survive our sorrow is trusting that Christ carries our burdens. What this small family will remember is a beautiful expression of love courageously voiced in marriage vows on a quiet winter night. In the embrace of a familiar sanctuary, their commitment to each other was yet another miracle of God’s love melding two lives together as one–while a mother and sister cheered from another shore.

All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on

An Election Day Prayer

My father served as an Air Force Chaplain for more than 20 years. When he was serving in Bolling Air Force Base, Washington DC, he got to know Senator Mark Hatfield. Hatfield arranged for him to open the Senate on April 5, 1984 with prayer. With a Masters degree in Political Science as well as a Master of Divinity, he regularly combined religion and politics in his personal life. In this case, he was able to combine the two in his professional life. Fortunately the prayer was printed in full in the minutes of the Senate session that day. I stumbled across these documents yesterday and they seemed fitting for election day. I share his prayer with you here:

Eternal God, Creator and Sustainer of each person and each nation, we bow to acknowledge Your sovereignty over us as a people. We know that whatever we do that is not within Your will is futile and counterproductive. We know as well that that which is Your will for us abounds beyond our wildest hopes. Your revelation of Yourself to us has been enough that we know quite well what You would have us do. We understand the goals that You have set before us. We have articulated them in majestic terms in our national documents. So we do not so much pray for wisdom and understanding as we do for courage to do that which we already comprehend. Having received Your directions for our lives, let us have the humility to put aside selfish goals in preference for those unselfish ones which best serve your kingdom. If we can do that, then we shall be known not for personal achievement, but for the shared good of all our people, and through them, the well-being of the wide world around us. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Chaplain Colonel James W. Chapman. Thursday, April 5, 1984


Our Yearning

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you…”

On April 24, 2022, I walked out the side doors of the church I had served for 25 years, retiring from 37 years of service as a parish minister. Three long-time church members had remained in the foyer, assuring me that they didn’t want my husband and me to exit the church for the last time without support from a representative contingent of my beloved congregation. That small token of hospitality in my final moments spoke volumes about my relationship with that church family. We cared for one another, ensuring that the needs of each member of the church would be spiritually met. Two of the adults had been on the search committee that called me to Rockford in 1996. One of them is the present moderator, leading her congregation through a pastoral transition. Several months removed from my quiet exit out the side door of the building, I am living the disorientation of that transition.

Let me back up a bit in my story. I didn’t go to seminary to become a parish minister. I thought I would become a counselor in a Christian holistic health center, a popular development for treating the spiritual needs of the whole person. I focused on social justice causes while studying at Chicago Theological Seminary. Having just returned from teaching nutrition to African mothers through the Peace Corps, my first internship was with Church World Service/CROP, raising money to combat hunger. I worked with a Catholic organization, the 8th Day Center for Justice. My task was to connect restaurants with soup kitchens so that restaurant leftovers wouldn’t go to waste. My husband, also a seminarian, did an internship with a clergy couple who shared a church together. We saw the joy they derived from shared gifts and shifted our sights to some sort of joint ministry. We received a call to serve as co-associate pastors for a suburban Chicago parish. When I stepped into this form of ministry, I was surprised at how immediately rewarding it was for me. My April 24 retirement concluded ministry in three unique church settings with somewhat different job descriptions. The common denominator for each of them was a love for worship and for pastoral calling.

I grew up going to church. My dad was assigned to a different Air Force base about every four years. We attended worship where he served. I chose to attend St. Olaf College where daily chapel services were well attended. If I didn’t feel like following the Lutheran liturgy (which I grew to love), I would walk about three miles round trip to a United Church of Christ on the other side of the small college town of Northfield, Minnesota. When I spent a semester in France, I found the one Protestant church in town and worshiped in their 12th century sanctuary. I sang French hymns in their choir. When I moved to Africa for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, I found a Protestant church led by an American missionary couple who became family to me. The congregation was African and they beautifully harmonized  their hymns without 4-part musical scripts! When I settled into seminary life in Chicago, I chose a United Church of Christ within walking distance of my apartment.

I love Christ’s Church, in all its beautiful variation! I’ve never taken for granted that I could plan worship services, starting with a Biblical text and fleshing out the service with liturgy, lay involvement and music. I have said to folks many times, “When else do you get to sing in unison with other people, accompanied by instruments?” My husband has always sung in the choir and his special music offerings were a gift to each congregation (and to me!). The one book I wrote, which was published just one week before my retirement, is a useful guide for worship leaders desiring to enliven their worship services with new ideas and resources. Setting down the mantle of parish ministry was a seismic shift in my professional and personal life.

Having been adrift from any one congregation for six months, I find myself in a strange land. If I am not the pastor of the church, what will I do? Can I sit in the pews and not get caught up in judging the worship service and overall health of a congregation? Where do I begin to look for a congregation we can call home? Why would I, when I can follow countless worship services from the comfort of my bedroom while drinking coffee? This present hiatus from in-person worship has served as a strange sort of sabbatical for me. We have enjoyed open weekends to visit family, take trips, and tune into different worship services when able. This is the first time in 37 years that I have my weekends free—and I’m loving it! Or am I?

We tuned into a service a couple of months ago. Their worship included hymns my husband and I knew with wonderful accompaniment on organ and piano. The liturgy effectively developed a theme that the Bible readings suggested. The preacher offered a message that was relevant, elicited some laughter at a point or two, and awakened a yearning within me to serve. I was caught up with the realization in my heart that I love Jesus. I love His Church! I want to find a place where I can use my gifts, albeit in a new capacity, so that my heart and my voice sing again! Something stirred within me at the end of his sermon and a longing for spiritual nourishment surfaced.

While there are several questions I am pondering in this interim period away from church membership, the one that has my greatest attention is this: What longings do churches fulfill?

What drove me to get out of bed and travel to churches wherever I roamed throughout my life? For what was I hoping when I slipped in doors of an ancient churches and knelt alone in the sanctuary to pray? Why did it matter for me to light candles that parted the darkness in stone cathedrals I visited? From whence does that longing come and how has it taken up residence in me?

While serving as a chaplain in a mental health hospital last year, I was struck with how often patients voiced a longing to connect with God. One man in his twenties shared his confusion about whether the longing he newly felt for God was to be trusted or if it was a symptom of his schizophrenia. Great question! When talking with mental health patients who are experiencing some form of psychosis, it can be difficult to discern when their religious convictions come from an authentic encounter with God or surface from a distorted worldview. I learned he was raised in the church but had abandoned his childhood faith, relying on alcohol to blunt the shame of his mental health crises. He spoke of a longing to know God and access God’s love. He asked for a Bible and we spoke of beginning points for his Bible reading. As our conversation concluded, I was quite certain that his ache for belonging was truly God at work.

Perhaps that longing is our deep desire to belong to someone. When human relationships fail us, we have to look elsewhere. For those of us raised within a faith construct, we are apt to return to that faith. Many of us learned through Vacation Bible School songs and with flannelgraphs in Sunday School rooms that Jesus loves us. Psalm 62:1 reminds us of the source of our longing: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Nothing else will nourish our souls. When our own antics lead to emptiness, we have an opportunity to dig beneath the surface of our daily lives. This search has at its root a question about belonging. From the old English, this verb means to be “together with” or “at hand.” When my patient’s binge with alcohol led to a jail cell and then a locked psych unit, it was the God he met on Sunday mornings who was “at hand.” For the first time as an adult, this young man was searching for a faith of his own.

A woman in her fifties told me of her sexual abuse at the hands of a step-dad, beginning at age 4. She said, “I left my body in those times. But I was never alone. God was always with me. I had this deep relationship from God that no one had to teach me because I met Him.”

Could it be that God searches us out first? Does our longing for God emerge as a response from God’s divine pursuit of us? Must we claim our identity as the prodigal son or daughter in order to see that God is the loving Parent who has not ceased pacing the front porch, scanning the horizon for a sign of our return home? Thomas Merton wrote, “Surrender your poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord. Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”

A woman recently spoke in a worship service about how she ended up at that church. She had moved to a new area, lost two beloved parents, and her relationship with her husband was strained. She felt alone in spite of the fact that she spent Monday through Friday teaching a classroom full of 8-year-olds. She decided to get back into church after letting it slide for a year. The first Sunday was OK. She was relieved. She went the next week and somebody greeted her by name. She said, “Like a bridge over troubled water, I was called by name. It wasn’t just that woman—and I don’t even know who it was! It was Jesus calling me, walking with me. It was the Holy Spirit moving in me, calling me to this church. It was God who had plans for me, plans for a future and a hope. That was twenty years ago and now you are my family!”

There are times when God breaks into our lives in an epiphany that brings us to our knees. Sometimes that “shewing”, as Julian of Norwich named it, is the result of our fervent prayers. Other times it arrives unsolicited and even unwanted. Julian’s profound encounters with the tri-une God, as she lingered between life and death, led to her conversion to an anchoritic lifestyle. She chose to be secluded in a small apartment built into the walls of a church. In that tiny space, she served as a spiritual director in words spoken through her window and through her writings. The comfort she felt anchoring herself in God has drawn generations of seekers to Jesus as the answer to their inexpressible longings. In an era when God was understood as a harsh and punishing judge, she introduced others to a God who seeks us out with love. Five hundred years later, Richard Foster described the spiritual journey in this way: “Today the heart of God is an open wound of love. He aches over our distance and preoccupation. He mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness. He longs for our presence.”

God longs for our presence? Is this the source of our own longing? Some people can’t imagine another human being weeping over their absence! One 40-year-old patient last year wept as he stated, “I just want one conversation with my mother before she dies where we can speak to each other lovingly.” Just as quickly as he voiced that hope, he told me he didn’t expect that to happen. We shifted to his desire to know God more fully. This is the One to whom he ultimately belongs. If he anchors himself in the God of Jesus Christ, he will be better able to let go of the wounds of those who have deeply disappointed him. Fully differentiated in himself, he can better endure the slights of his mother.

In the Women’s Lounge in one of the locked units, a woman listened to loud Christian music on her radio. The woman always spoke in Biblical verse. Virtually all of her sentences were formed around a Biblical reference. A song came on the radio: Ten Thousand Reasons by Matt Redman. I sat across from her and quietly sang the words, smiling at her in a shared moment of worship. I sang to show solidarity with her in the midst of her mania. I sang because that has been a favorite hymn of mine and I miss not being able to select songs that I can sing with musical accompaniment on Sunday mornings. In that moment, I was reminded of why I need to be part of a church family. Folks in memory care facilities who no longer know their own names will, nonetheless, sing the words to a beloved hymn in a Sunday afternoon worship service. The rich foundation upon which they established their days was poured into them in their childhood religious education. In singing “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father…” their foggy mind cannot cloud their feeling of belonging. The yearning is met with rich fulfillment when the hymns of our past make sense of our present. When short-term memory fails, long-term meaning anchors us.

We do not have sole ownership of God as Creator or Jesus as Brother and Friend. Psalm 100 reminds us that all have equal claim to membership in God’s family: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

 My brother-in-law grew up on a sheep farm in Morley, Michigan. We have visited in the Spring when his father, a shepherd, sometimes had 200 lambs to care for! When they are a month old, they leave their mamas and “frolic” in the meadow. One sheep runs down the hill and they all follow. Another one runs up the hill and they follow again. Absent a shepherd, who calls them into the barn at night for protection and to the trough for food each evening, they would wear themselves out in mindless mob movement. They congregate together—but they need a shepherd.

I have had the privilege both of being part of the flock that Jesus tends and acting as a shepherd to three congregations. I have known that my deepest longings can only be met in divine encounter. I have sought to convey the Truth of my experience to others so that they, too, might find that lifeline. As pastor, I joined scripture, liturgy and music each Sunday to inspire a multi-generational gathering into following Jesus. Dr. Henry Roediger stated in the Wall Street Journal that musical rhythm and rhyme provide a structure that is key to unlocking information stored in the brain. He writes that words put to music or learned by rote can be easily retrieved. The mom of a five-year old girl, with a keen sense of the Spirit, told me of an outing to a raspberry patch. Raspberry bushes are prickly and some of the outer branches had been picked clean. It was a hot day and the daughter was still searching for berries she could put in her bucket. Her mom suggested she pull back some of the outer branches to see what she might find deeper in the bush. A minute later she heard her daughter cry out, “Glory be to the Father!” She had found a pocket filled with ripe raspberries hidden from sight. The words of the doxology, sung in weekly worship, had taken up residence in her. Having been baptized into the faith, this little girl learned through our weekly rituals, to give God the glory—for life and for raspberries discovered on a hot afternoon. Since then she has been confirmed into the faith and is looking at Christian colleges for next fall. She knows where to turn to satisfy her sense of longing.

Sadly, I hear many stories from people about how the Church has crushed their spirit. They have felt judged, rejected, or devalued. They hunger for God but are not willing to go back to Church. I am deeply saddened by their hurt and search for ways to nurture their spirituality outside of the Church. Fortunately, I know God meets people where they are. I am often impressed with how some folks are able to hang onto their love for God in spite of their rejection by Christians. Many still turn to the scriptures for inspiration even though they will not hear the Word read in a sanctuary. I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer with those who have made a sanctuary in their hearts because every human institution has failed them. Others can only affirm that there is some sort of Higher Power that has spared their life repeatedly. We talk about what honest conversation with that Higher Power might be (as that is prayer)! The psalmist leads the way for us to express raw emotions as we cry out, “Why me?”, “How long, O’ Lord” or “Where have you gone from my presence?” I can offer the gifts of the Church, as Jesus intends it to be, to those who may not enter a church building ever again. While life lived within the communion of the Church is God’s plan for our corporate lives, we all must watch for opportunities to point folks to God who, alone, can answer their deepest longings.

In this time of transition, I am beginning to feel comfortable in the cloak of “former pastor.” My husband and I have “zoomed” into different worship services but I know that a congregation of two will not fulfill my spiritual hunger. I think of Barbara Brown Taylor who left the Church for a time because of hurtful treatment at the hand of her parishioners. She is known as an advocate for night, the time when we have to squint to make out our reality. We choose every step carefully in the dark because the way is not clear. Her powerful writing points people to Christ who may have lost their way. I have had a beautiful experience in my parish ministry that worries me that I may not find a new congregation that lives the Gospel in a way that connects with me. I could easily settle in with those who choose Sunday mornings as the perfect time to take a deep breath and linger in night clothes, sipping endless cups of coffee. But I dare not. I have felt, in this transitional “dark night”, as described by John of the Cross, how Christ’s light shines brightest when the path we are taking is unknown. The moment of stirring I felt at the end of a zoom sermon summoned me to begin the search for a sanctuary where I can join my voice to that of other Christians, singing hymns and entrusting my heart to the nourishment of scripture. I am meant to join my talents to those of others who are meeting needs of those around them out of a sense of Christian conviction. I must find a safe space for my emotions to be moved by the Spirit in the vulnerable setting of a Church family. My longing is in response to God’s profound love for me in Jesus. I love His Church. I will find a new spiritual home by the power of the Holy Spirit where I can be accepted “just as I am.” In this time of transition, I rejoice that “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10)  

For me? Amazing!