It’s kind of a classic question.
If you could only grab a few things on your way out, what would you grab?
What is most important?
For me this came just a week or so ago, just as we came back from sabbatical. As you might have heard, we moved the church offices down to our new building at 73 Court St. as renovation on the bottom floor of our main building has begun.
We had the help of movers, and so they could pack and move the vast majority of our offices, but we all had the chance to grab what we wanted to be sure got there safe, what was most important to us.
And I grabbed you all.
Some of you might remember that in my office a while ago, I had a large wall with pictures of so many of you. Polaroids that we first took when we came to interview for the job of serving you all eight years ago. To help learn your names and to hear about your hopes and dreams for South Church, we took pictures of you and then had them displayed up on a mantle in the house in which we were staying.
And then in subsequent years, we continued to take pictures of our new members and their children, adding more and more faces, more and more hopes and dreams to the wall.
In this transitional time, the pictures have lived in a box in my office, and it is one of the things I took with me.
Also our holy water. It is in a large glass jar labeled “Sugar” to trick holy water thieves and/or vampires who might come across it. (also because it was the only empty jar I found in the kitchen eight years ago) This is the water that we gather every fall, and have been adding to now for years, water from so many people, from so many holy places, this, too I took up in my arms.
Nestling these most important things into my car, I thought of you all. And I realized that this is all we need. Each other.
Lauren and I are so grateful for the gift of time we have received from you all, this gift of sabbatical. We are so grateful for all the leaders who stepped up and served with conviction and compassion and care. We are so grateful for our hardworking staff, for their tirelessness and vision, for their warmth and flexibility.
It was a beautiful time for Lauren and I and we will be reporting back on it in so many ways for these many weeks and months and years to come.
It is good to be back. We missed you. We are so excited to get back into the swing of church life, to catch back up with you all and your lives, to grieve with you and to celebrate with you. You all are my favorite part of this vast thing which is ministry, and I knew it so clearly holding your water, holding your pictures.
I got to visit a bunch of churches during sabbatical, and I saw all over again that this is a precious thing we are holding together, this thriving moment in the long life of South Church. So much is possible with this particular alchemy of you all and Lauren and I and the rest of our staff, so much is possible when we pour ourselves into this moment, when we bring the deepest and the best of who we are and we strive to reach the fullness of what together we can become.
So, again, thank you. For the precise and precious thing that you bring to South Church. Thank you for everything you have brought in these last many years or months or days, however long you have been among us, and especially thank you for all that is about to be. 2This is an exciting time we are reaching out into. With this constellation of people, with each of us, all together, joined in common mission, pointed in the same direction, so much is possible.
During sabbatical, I was blessed by so many poems, by so many good books. In one of those poems, I came across these words, by Robert Bly,
“I love you with what in me is unfinished,
I love you with what in me is still changing”
And I share these with you as we embark on this next phase of our ministry together, because we are all unfinished. Now, six years into our time together we have all learned so much. Lauren and I continue to grow and learn and deepen our service to you all and to the mission of South Church. You all continue to grow and learn and deepen. And with the love which is at our center as our guide, with this shared desire to serve the mission of South Church, and with these changing, growing, deepening selves, there is so much that we can do, so much good work ahead of us together.
So thank you. For this precious gift of time with my beloved, with my sweet family, with myself and with this world. Thank you for this beautiful ministry, which is the deepest honor I have ever known. Thank you for your service, for your passion, for all that you give in service of this thing we are building together.
So much love to you all,