I only live in this community part of the week, but my best friends in Nebraska are here. Buddies I talk Mary Kay with, buddies I walk with, buddies I eat dinner with, buddies who leave garden veggies in my car for me and take me to lunch or dinner and invite me to see their ranches. See- I'm bad at the distance thing. I've shared my most intimate prayer requests about adoption with them. Frankly, I don't think I could be as effective a minister and not be all tangled up in the lives of people. Praise those who have better boundaries than me- they are probably really great interim ministers.
This weekend we had some firsts together, this parish and I. Two planned, two not so much.
1. My first funeral. I got a call early last week to let me know that the mother (and mother-in-law) of some dear church members had passed away. She was a church member as well, but had been in ill health since I got here. I had not had the chance to meet her as she resided at a care center two hours away in a town I hadn't been to. Besdies the stories they shared with me, they also came bringing me her Bible. Grandma's Bible and all the treasures contained in it became the crux of my funeral homily. I really enjoyed the time with the family even despite the circumstances. And I was treated so well by the funeral home folks- what a huge difference that makes!
2. Early Sunday morning came the next first for me. At our smallest congregation (regularly 4-6 in worship) one worshiper showed up. People have asked me how I lead a worship service for 4 people- I don't find that difficult at all. We have community- EVERYONE participates. They even sing loud with me- either a capella or with the CD's we have of the songs in the hymnal. One parishioner and one minister- that my friends is a different story. And yet its still the story of worship with God- and Dianna and me. Matthew 18:20 says, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Worship with one other person on a Sunday morning and you will KNOW that is true. We prayed, we sang, we recited, I even shared my sermon with her- in a more conversational fashion. We shared things with each other we might not have if five other people had been present. And it was cool- and God was there. Amen.
3. Next- first infant baptism! I drove to the second of the three churches for a baptism we'd been planning for a month or so. The baptism of a wee one that was born two days after I started as their interim minister! I had no idea when I met Michelle on that Sunday that she'd be giving birth two days later, turns out neither did she- Hope was a tad early. So I put on my robe and stole- and around that small baptismal font we gathered- her family and I. We all made promises, the other children and I blessed the water and then I smoothed the waters of baptism over her head three times- even made the sign of the cross on her forehead. It didn't bother her one bit. She didn't cry or even squirm really. Then came my favorite part- where Hope and I walked up and down the isle to get a closer look at all these church folks who made promises to help her on her faith journey. She got to look them in the eye- I think that helps the promise- making become more real. She is as old as my ministry here in this community- and aren't we both blessed (even though we are just starting out!).
4. My first time to preach without a sermon in front of me. Sooooooo, after all the baptism excitement I shed my robe and stole (because it was 1 million degrees outside) and headed for church number three. About five minutes from the church, I looked over at my passenger seat and realized that I left the print out of my sermon on the desk at church number two when I changed out of my robe. Yikes. Worst fear in ministry: realized. I mean- how many times have I had that dream? The answer- a lot of times.
And yet- this peace settled over me. "You know what you want to say." I thought, and hey, "at least you forgot your sermon on service 3 of 3 rather than 1 of 3." And so I went, and I lead worship. And I stood on the floor instead of behind the pulpit (which was good because the loud air conditioner and fans were on, being that it was 1 million degrees)- and I preached. I'm sure I didn't say everything that was on my sermon script. But I said what I wanted to say. And I made a LOT of eye contact and it felt good. Even though I'm not sure I want to do it again anytime soon.
Maybe my new cool shoes made the difference- happy feet/ happy pastor.