Prolific 1980s pop philosopher William R Joel once said “Life is a series of Hellos and Good-byes. I’m afraid it’s time for Good-bye again.” Itinerant ministers become accustomed to saying Good-bye, it’s my turn again. I know these things stretch out and get annoying before they’re done. There is often a little bit of relief when the day to leave finally arrives: at least you don’t have to keep talking about it anymore.
As we pronounced Jesus dead and buried, I also marked the last broadcast from the Garage-Church. Garage-Church has been my Church-away-from-Church since March 13, 2020, when COVID-19 struck our little town. A few days into the first week of the pandemic I turned on my Facebook Live for the first time and began talking into the air, hoping someone was there to hear. For 13 months now, this space has been my refuge. I have preached, taught, counseled, recorded, Zoomed, Facebooked, prayed and studied in this space. Like me, too often, the garage was cold, poorly lit, poorly connected, messy, smelly, cluttered and uncomfortable. At the same time, the Garage has mirrored how I have felt. As a metaphor for my spirit, the Garage has been unparalleled.
I guess I better understand Mrs. Looney’s prayer chamber under the stairs, the dudes in the catacombs and Jesus’ pre-dawn morning forays into the hilltops. God wants to meet us where we are. The Garage is where I have been and God has found me there in an honest state: full of worry, distraction and Diet Dr. Pepper. As we slowly close up this chapter, I better understand my need to commune with God. I hope to never have another Garage-Church. But maybe I’ll have a Church-Corner somewhere to remind me that in my fear, loneliness and messiness, God actually found me.