Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Gal in PA

I've been here in PA for almost two weeks now. Most of my time during the first week was unpacking boxes. This is a monumental task - in fact, there are still many boxes inhabiting in the dining room. There are still boxes of books in my study that need a home. In the midst of all the unpacking, I got aquainted with my church office and the wonderful secretary; managed to get my car insurance secured; got a PA driver's license; got cable & internet hooked up in the house; and figured out what I was going to say on my first Sunday morning (sermon was done before I arrived, but all of the other words). My first Sunday went well - sermon was well received, didn't screw up too much, and there was a fabulous welcome lunch that followed worship, which included the BEST welcome basket ever. I love them already.

However, week two proved to be an interesting one. It started off with spending MLK day volunteering at the Chester County Food Warehouse down the street from my house/church. We packed bags of food for the mobile food pantry, cleaned up the warehouse, and generally had a good time. The morning also included a lovely brunch downstairs at the Parkesburg Point (the youth center supported by area churches) and hearing 10 kids from the Point tell us about their dreams. Pretty powerful stuff. I was asked to give the blessing over the food - the first of many public prayers, this am I sure of. I loved being there & enjoyed getting to know the community.

Tuesday brought its own set of challenges. This was the day of my examination for ordination on the floor of Presbytery. I was thrilled to have three church members present with me as my cheering section of sorts. Well, it didn't go as smoothly as I had wished - difficult questions from the floor, which I didn't mind in the least. However, after I left the room for the discussion/vote, it turned ugly. There was yelling. There was harsh opinions and judgments flying around about me. The worst part was being on the other side of a poorly insulated wall and hearing it all go down. I felt awful for my congregation members in the room listening to this & unable to say anything (they did not have voice on the floor as non-Presbytery commissioners). Needless to say, it was a long ten minutes or so. In the end, I was approved (thanks be to God) and came back into the room & was prayed for by some pretty amazing people. Afterwards, I had a lot of people come up to me to give their support and welcome to the Presbytery. I was shaken up, but also felt very empowered. I stood my ground. I know that I'm "alternative" due to my use of 'parent' rather than 'father' language for God, and that I am admittedly a universalist. I accept this about myself and will never push these on people, especially from the pulpit.

Well, Wednesday brought a breakfast meeting with the new Presbytery exec, who I think is amazing. Throughout the day, I received numerous emails and phone calls from people apologizing for what happened the previous day. I was touched by their outpouring of support. The day ended with a letter being issued from the Presbytery with a formal apology and commitment to do better on all sides. The Presbytery exec also came to my Session meeting to explain the situation and smooth it over. All is good on that front, thank goodness.

Needless to say, my week was rocky. But, I made it through intact. A little bruised, but okay. I did have dinner with two church members on Thursday at a little Irish pub in the middle of nowhere. And, I had dinner on Friday night with a new pastor friend at her house. Loved talking about seminary, life in the church, and about cats (she has two). It certainly refreshed my soul, in more ways than one. The whole week made for difficulty in the sermon writing department. However, in the end, the Spirit came through, as she always does:)

I'm happy. I really am. My sights are now set on my ordination, which is in two weeks on Sunday, Feb 7th. I am thrilled to go home to TN and be surrounded by some of my favorite people. After my rocky ordination process, it will indeed be a sweet day that I will remember for the rest of my life. On a separate note, I will share the day with the Indianapolis Colts playing in the Super Bowl. While I am a devoted New England Patriots fan, I do love some Payton Manning:)

Life is good, despite it all. God is here. That's all that matters in the end. Peace!


RobMonroe said...

Thanks be to God that you are a strong enough person to stick to your beliefs, even in the face of a Presbytery! LPC has adopted a more gender-neutral doxology, though I'm not sure how many people use the words in the bulletin, it's a comfort to us Monroes.

Blessings on your travels and continued ministry in a new land!

Ken Knickerbocker said...

Erin, welcome to Parkesburg. I know you'll love your time here.