Yesterday I was installed as pastor and teacher of St. Paul’s UCC, 15 months after arriving in Woodstock in September 2019. Installation sounds like something that you do with an air conditioner, or an upgrade for your computer operating system, something mechanical. In church language, it is the affirmation of a covenant between a pastor, a congregation, the larger community of faith and God as we participate together in mutual ministry.
At its best, God-breathed community is an expression of sacred presence in a particular place and time. And somehow, in the mysterious ways of Spirt, we bring our accumulated narratives into the present as we live and minister together into an as-yet unknown-to-us future. It isn’t about any one of us – it’s about the God who loves us and invites us to be a part of a much bigger narrative than we can only glimpse.
This past week I’ve been thinking about my own narrative, and the people, congregations, and organizations that have supported, nurtured, and helped to write my narrative. One of my favorite proverbs comes from Portugal, and says this, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” Only the creative writing of God, together with others along to way, could have taken the circuitous lines of my life from PA (through WI, HI, and NC) to Woodstock VA; and from a 3-yr-old playing pastor of a church composed of my stuffed animals (through college athletics, teacher, coach, referee, stay-at-home mom, mental health counselor, and chaplain) to this place and time. Who knew? I guess God did. Jeremiah 29:11 (CEV) puts it this way, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” That’s grace, God’s desire for this good world.
It’s not all about me! Mine is only one narrative. Each of our unique narratives counts, adds to the richness of community, and together are expressions of the sacred presence that this time and place needs.
Yoda would put it this way, “Thankful I am!” The Mandalorian would say this, “It is the Way!”* – Anne
* This is what happens when Rod picks the TV shows.