8:00AM–Leave for churches. Drop bulletins into 2 of 3. Pray in one. Scramble because I forgot my childrens’ message prop.
9:00AM–Church 1–Our only nonagenarian arrives as we pass the peace. She is stopped by a sea of hugs, handshakes and well-wishes. This group is so warm and loving. Out of 18 in attendance, we had 3 children <9, one aged 94, one twenty-something (who herself is part a three generation family in the church), two ladies who are either married to or widowed from Catholics and two visitors. Into my fourth year here, I find this group to be a tremendous joy.
10:00AM–Church 2–Prayer time here is especially poignant, which is saying a lot. We pray for economic matters, family matters, community matters, congregational matters. There are plenty of tears, but no hopelessness. Out of 20 in attendance, 4 are white, 4 are African immigrants, 16 are black, 4 were children <11, one was a WWII vet, one was 91 and still driving, one retired elderly couple was joined by there retired-but-not-really-elderly children, one is a college student, two are teachers by trade. Entering my third year here, I find this group to be refreshingly optimistic and hopeful. And they are always a joy to preach to.
11:00AM–Church 3–Preaching here is the best of the day, which is not usually the case. In the cutting and pasting of bulletins, I got things out of order. It is okay. Out of 21 in attendance, we have two survivors of the Battle of the Bulge, 8 men, 5 couples, several cancer survivors, 10 grandmothers, one man with a double Master’s degrees in Sacred Music, one who survived brain surgery earlier this year and a man who is 87 and still runs his own grass mowing service. I’ve always had a hit-and-miss relationship with this church. But today, as I stood before them, I found myself realizing that they are God’s children. Sitting down after worship for my regular front-pew 12:05PM exhale, I thought, God is not done with this congregation yet. Into my fourth year here, I have plenty of gratitude for what I have learned from this congregation. Better yet, today, I felt optimistic.
12:00 Noon–Wendy’s #1 + Christian Century + table in the corner with plenty of sun. Really, all of these things go together. I am always sweaty as I stand in line to order. With so many shorts and T-shirts around me it was obvious that I and the girls behind the counter were among the few working on this day. I feel sorry for the girls behind the counter on Sunday. Yet I keep going back. I need a more just ritual.
1:00PM–Walking through the Lowe’s Garden Center, a favorite after church activity. Meet Meredith at a restaurant because I forgot to wait on her earlier. Have a strawberry lemonade as we discuss our churches’ reactions to the news that we are expecting our first child. Here is one advantage to the multiple-point charge: five opportunities for us to be blessed and overjoyed by the church. It was worth all the other stress.
2:00PM–Visit a parishioner with a web of issues: health, socio-economic, learning disability, unfortunate family dynamics, etc. I am surprisingly energetic for such work. This visit, I was met by this family’s graciousness, which allowed me to move past a mistake I had made with them. Funny how this kind of thing works out. None of this parishioner’s issues were worked out, and even the ‘ministry of presence’ angle was a bit lackluster. Nevertheless, ministry happened.
3:00PM–Go to the 90th birthday party for one of my nursing-home-bound parishioners. She is such a sweety. A year and a half ago, she lost her ability to speak via a series of strokes. But she is always smiling and genuinely happy. Today, she just gushed with gratitude and cheerfulness. I met a lot of her family. I can’t believe how many photos they had of her wielding power tools, on four wheelers, kayaking…all while looking like she still does at age 90. Bonus: being that she is the matriarch (both via longevity and her faith) of Church 3, I got more face-time with that church. So many church people. family, friends…what a complete joy for her, for her kids, for her church. I just love this woman!
4:00PM–Go to a children’s soccer game. These two brothers from Ethiopia (from Church 2) LOVE futbol. And they are so good. I got to hang with their sister who was playing later. All three are unbelievably smart, courteous, fun, happy and gracious. Tough game against a good opponent but it was clear who the best players were! I got to hang with their adoptive dad who is having a great time being a father. I get the feeling that loving other people comes easily to these kids and to this family. I know that this makes it easy to love this family. They have been a great joy to the church.
5:00PM–Break at B/N while I check on email and await for the last thing at 6. The sun at the soccer game was hot in my church clothes, so a little A/C and free WiFi were much welcomed.
6:00PM–Pull in to my last stop for the day–a potluck dinner to kick-off Building on Faith Week for Mon County Habitat for Humanity. I sat with a fellow Faith Relations Committee member, a tremendous contributor to the team. Her table of fellow Catholics was lively and comedic. There is a paper prayer chain that will gain links throughout the week. There were brownies, too. I got to meet other committee’s members: Family Selection and Family Advocacy. Just by shaking others’ hands, I understood a lot more about Habitat’s methods. With the week commencing tomorrow, the Catholic table asked me to join them to build tomorrow evening. Of all the work I’ll do this week for Habitat (and have done already), I had forgotten to sign up for the most important one: building a home in partnership with a family in need.
7:00PM–Ascend up the road out of the proper boundaries of my hometown of Morgantown, WV. I do not always like the drive, but Sunday evening is the regular exception. I crank up the Radiohead and roll down the windows. The air is great this time of year. I am often surprised as to my alertness and energy as I go home for the day. Shouldn’t I be more tired? And yet, I am appreciative, even at peace. Plenty of work done. Plenty of contact, which for such an introvert as me, is rejuvenating. I think that I like being a pastor.