Thursday, May 29, 2008

Surreal becoming real

Surreal. That's how I've been feeling these past few days. It just doesn't seem possible that I am leaving in 11 days. I feel like I've been walking around in this cloud, but it's starting to hit me now. I was just reading an email about getting together for lunch with some church people & I realized this would be the last time. On June 9th, I will pack my car & drive the long 8 hours to Tennessee to my family's home. I won't be coming to the church in the mornings anymore. It is so hard to swallow. Reality is setting in now.

I'm working on my final sermon for the 8th. My thoughts are to weave the call story of Abram with my own story. I find great beauty when weaving biblical narratives with our own stories. God shines through it. But, this is one of the hardest sermons I've ever written. Right now, it's just notes & my initial thoughts. I can't seem to move past that stage. It makes me rather sad, even though I have great hope & faith things will be even better from here on out. Saying goodbye is so hard.

Tonight, is my final choir rehearsal. This choir has been through so much over these last few years and I've grown so close to them. Saying some parting words to them is surreal still for me. I don't know what I will say tonight. I trust the Spirit will guide me.

Tears are welling up in my eyes...this is going to be a hard 11 days. Prayers requested.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Meant to Be

This past weekend, I traveled back to Atlanta to celebrate my friends & classmates as they graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary. It was a bittersweet time for me- I took this year to intern & learn more about myself & ministry, and these are the people I began seminary with & now they are done. I wouldn't change this year for anything. But, I did find myself several times feeling rather awkward about being there. Everyone has moved on & I've missed so much this year. I have to reconnect & learn about people all over again. As I watched my friends & classmates walk down the aisle of Peachtree Presbyterian Church, wearing their caps & gowns, I knew I was not meant to walk with them. I was meant to sit in the pew and celebrate their accomplishments. God brought me here to Laurel, Maryland to allow me the time & space to grow in my ministry. And, it has been a rewarding, rich experience. I know that when I step back into the classroom, surrounded by friends, I will have new perspectives on ministry & take with me a whole new set of questions informed by my time here. Some things are meant to be. This is one of them. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Longest Nine Days

It's been a really long nine days for me. It all started at 6:45am last Sunday morning when my phone rang. It was our church organist, Pat, and she tells me that her husband Ron passed away. Ron was a beloved member of LPC, a current elder, sang in the choir, and I had traveled with him to Mississippi back in February. To top it all off, I was in charge on Sunday since Amy was out of town. After wrapping my mind around what just happened, I made my way over to the church, mentally preparing myself to be the one who needed to tell people about Ron. I called Amy & our choir director, Matt. Before the first service, I pulled aside as many elders & people who I knew had a connection with Ron to tell them first before I made the announcement at the beginning of the service. Then, we needed someone to play the piano for the service & thank goodness someone stepped up. When I announced it, there was this audiable gasp. It broke my heart. I changed the liturgy & my sermon on my feet, trying to pay tribute to this incredible person, who I've gotten to know over these last nine months. The service went fine & by the time the second service began, everyone had heard the news. Needless to say, I could not wait for it to be over.

I visited with the family after church & Amy arrived soon afterwards. We listened to Pat, his wife & his daughter Marie tell us about what happened & about Ron's life. When I got home that afternoon, I simply collapsed onto the couch. I felt like there was nothing left inside of me to give. I'd been responsible for too much that day.

As I made my way through the next few days, I took time to grieve for Ron. I knew him well, had many conversations with him, and learned so much from him. He was a brilliant man, studied astronomy, and worked as a systems engineer for orbiting observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope. But, Ron was also a man of deep faith. He worked on so many different projects around the church & had just started a term as an elder back in January.

The visitation was Thursday night. There were so many people there. I know Pat, Marie, and his son Mark were comforted by the presence of so many friends. Ron's memorial service was on Friday morning. It was a beautiful service, filled with music & words about his life. This sums it all up: "He taught us all how to use our minds to serve God, and we give thanks that he has been called home to his Maker, where he can contemplate the workings of the universe."

I know that I learned a lot in these last nine days about ministry. And, I know that I am capable of handling crises in the moment. It was also a humbling experience for me.

I'm tired. That is an understatement. This work is so personal, you put so much of your heart & yourself into your ministry. If you are not careful, you can be completely drained. I don't think I'm there, but I know I need some time to refresh, replenish, and recharge.

Thanks be to God for the life of Ron. May he have eternal rest cradled in the arms of God.