We had visited the northside church which has welcomed us as we’ve tried to be little quiet bridge to the Black churches of our city. They even save us a seat when we come, and have invited “Mama Molly” to give a parting prayer at the end of the service a week ago.
They are a people “full of the Spirit” for me, and Zion’s pastor touches us deeply when, in a very confessional and personal way, he expounds “The Word.” We are always lifted as we come away from their two-hour service, and the kindly greetings of their people.
But today, as we drove away from Colonial Church, the church we’ve loved and served so long, Molly said, as a kind of pronouncement: “All the dear faces!”
And she was right. They were everywhere: people precious to us through our friendships now close to 50 years. So many relationships in dozens of different ways – people with whom I’d paddled the Boundary Waters; people who had been my young friends in Confirmation class; people I’d married, and families whose loved ones I’d buried; people at whose hospital bedsides I had prayed; people who had simply chosen to be our friends; some who had walked with us at different times; doctors who had helped in our healing; friends who had simply been our fellow journeyers; one person who had forgiven us much; old friends who had dropped out of sight for a year or more who were suddenly there.
It made me think what a strange and wonderful thing “church” is. For some, it’s the “band of brothers” – and sisters, who have stood together as Christ’s body, bringing His love to bear in our lives and many other lives.
They’re the people who smile at you, who cross the aisle to touch you, with a loving word; people who have been our partners in prayer, in ministry, in mission.
It was a sudden, huge awareness. It makes us think how “Blest be the tie that binds.”
Of course, “church” too, is where we hear “The Word,” sing the hymns, share the sacraments, and just live the life.
We both felt a great sense of gratitude for those three companies of people who had been “church” to us – the first little congregation in Williamsburg out in western Massachusetts, and then the Eliot Church in Newton, MA, and finally – Colonial: the people who had borne so much in their life with us. Some of them holding us and looking at us with deep, real, but unspoken forgiveness, and love in their eyes.
We might all do well to think what church really is to us—what we learn there, experience there, change in us from being in that company. And how we are touched by the love of God by our daring to be in that company of Jesus’ followers.
May it be humbling joy to you.
Love you all.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES