After 12 months as designated pastor at Church of St. Andrew, our shared season has ended. I learned some remarkable things from the beautiful folks there, and made friendships that I hope will continue for years to come.
I have learned the value of focusing on a few understandable good things so that as many folks as possible might join the conversation and participate fully. I've learned how much space and the ordering of space can create new possibilities. I've learned that old folks can learn new things, a great 80- year-old friend at church smiled with radiance after a service in which we made space for meditation. I learned that, even in the suburbs, partnership with neighbors matters deeply! I learned that everywhere people are thirsty for authentic communities to share faith practices with and a safe place to doubt and be vulnerable.
I've also learned more about my limits. I am more clearly seeing the strengths I have for orbiting deeply layered institutions and the chaos I bring to my life and others by colluding to those institutions. I am seeing that having a burning passion within me to share the good news with anyone is not the same as being universally qualified to teach the good news with anyone. Another limit I've learned is that I will always be drawn more deeply to the verbal behavior of being church (ambassadors of reconciliation, harbingers of the kingdom of God, salt, light) than to the proper noun of being declared a church (building, organization, certain cultural authority). This gives both Kelley and me pause when i consider what is next...
Oh, and I have missed writing music.
I'm sure I'll learn more and reinterpret the above learnings more and more as time passes. If your reading this as a friend, my deepest need right now is to take time to grieve. So I welcome the encouragement and prayers that I get off my arse and do that now while things are fresh.
A week after the session, and presbytery and I agreed that we were to conclude the contract as designated pastor I was at the former community house where Kelley, Eve, and I had lives for 3 years. We looked out at a more-than-60 year-old Water Oak that had just been pruned. Branches that were no longer nourishing the trunk and no longer being properly nourished by the tree had been carefully removed for the sake of the tree’s health and their home’s safety. This might be the clearest way to describe what has happened recently with and for St.Andrew’s.
But with any good metaphor no one thing equals the other. The tree is not the church alone, and the cut branch is not just the change in personnel. No, the tree is also my family and me, the Presbytery, and the city of Sandy Springs –even God’s entire World. And there are many branches being addressed in this process. In many ways our family, nourished for quite some time by the members and leadership of COSA, has felt further grafted into our neighborhood and the Presbytery, nourished by them in this process. And in many ways the session and I, with the help of Presbytery, have seen with clarity where nourishment was taking place and where breaches in trust had caused certain branches not to get sufficient light or nutrition.
So the habits of grafting, while they do include cutting, are cultivating, generative practices. I am feeling all sorts of nutrients as our family settles into this new reality. My imagination is growing because of this all. New opportunities to create are emerging. New employment opportunities long range and short range, are presenting themselves. And great chances to thrive here in Capital View are showing up. So I hope that the folks at St.Andrews will also be met with the grace of imagination and possibility as they look into the their horizon.