Last month I wrote that I would be updating you on the changes in my life, and it seems like I never have time to write any more. Living with my 3 adorable grandsons fills my days with fun and games that I never thought existed. Truly the joy is endless.
I have also filled my life with a community of people who have befriended me in the pool. Three days a week we submit ourselves to a workout guaranteed to make us tired and we love it, or at least that is the consensus as we relax in the hot tub or chat over lunch. These people have welcomed me into their lives and I am richer for it.
Then I found a new purpose and new ministry at in the congregation where I began worshiping last summer. As you know I came to my new home tired and discouraged, and completely worn out from the stresses and trauma of closing congregations, and especially from the skirmishes that seemed to be involved in that process. Even congregations that close well and faithfully leave an emotional and painful hole in your heart, but congregations that fight into and through the closure can wrench the very carpet out from under you. And I am grateful to have found a place of healing.
I found Varsity Acres simply because there was no Presbyterian Church in the community where I am living. They were close enough that the commute was doable and more importantly I knew how to find them.
Once there I was greeted and welcome, even hugged by some of the people that I knew many years ago. The welcome continued and continued as people took a genuine interest in me. Week after week I enjoyed meeting new people and rejoiced in the ways in which I felt loved and appreciated.
Worship was meaningful, thought provoking and blessed and nurtured me in ways I had not anticipated. Making the transition from being the person who lead worship, to being one who was nurtured in worship was truly helpful to me, and I am grateful for the kind and thoughtful preachers who have made that happen.
Then walking past a conversation about the arrival of the refugee family, I shamelessly invited myself onto the committee and found something that I could do that would make a difference in the world. Making a difference through ministry is something that is very important to me. I had an outlet for my desire to be a servant. I helped set up the apartment and became the official scribe for the committee, keeping the congregation updated about the joys and struggles of welcoming a refugee family and helping them find their way into freedom in a strange new land.
As they say no good deed goes unpunished, and it wasn’t long before one of the members of the refugee committee invited me to a meeting of a steering committee that was working to start a new project in the congregation.
What was being planned was an exciting new venture, starting a respite program for people with dementia, which would focus on fellowship and companionship. The more I learned about the program the more I was grateful that I could be a part of planning to make it possible. Then, I was asked if I wanted to be the person who would coordinate and run the program. At first I said no. I was really hoping to find a full time job, and would be interviewing with an urban mission the very next day.
But one thing that I have always done is take calling very seriously. That sense of urgency in calling moved me from the warm west coast of the country to the prairie, where I learned to endure the cruelty of winter, to the opposite coast of the country where I struggled with trying to lead a congregation to embrace new ways of ministry and who eventually became the first congregation I ministered to through closure. From there to a two point charge and more closure ministry. Accepting a call from God does not always lead to a smooth or pain free path.
After the interview I didn’t feel any sense of “this is what I am meant to be doing.” So I wrote to HR and said that this was not the position for me. Then I went back to the steering committee and said that yes, I would be delighted to take on the job of Side by Side Coordinator, working one day a week. (HA HA)
That was in September. In November I began the process of learning the program by observing and learning at the one being run in a sister congregation. I began planning and organizing for the day we would begin at Varsity. I started recruiting volunteers. I wrote more articles for the newsletter promoting Side by Side as a worthy part of the calling of the congregation. I planned a training event. I agonized about being ready in time.
And then, on this past Thursday we began. We welcomed the first two of our participants and paired them up with their volunteer companions. We ran through the day in which the other volunteers led various parts of the program, from exercise to crafts, from Bible Study to Hymn Sings and lunch and Boccee Ball. What a wonderful day. And what wonderful volunteers. I commented to the coordinator of the St. Andrew’s program who will be helping us through this start up time, that I had known how loving and generous the people at Varsity were by the ways in which they were treating me, and at how pleased I was to be seeing them work with our participants. I proudly stated that I had the best volunteers ever. I also said that I knew that we had the right people for the program. Kind, loving, generous people who were working to make the day at Side by Side a day in which the participants felt welcomed, loved and respected.
So yes, I have a one day a week job that has taken over my life. But truthfully I love it, and more than that I love that I am able to give myself in ministry in a way that brings love, joy and something meaningful into other people’s lives. All of us at Varsity know that we are involved in something that is very important and greatly needed. We know that we are blessed to be the ones through whom this ministry can happen.
More than that we are blessed to benefit from the experience of the people offering Side by Side at St. Andrew’s. Their coordinator and all their volunteers have blessed us with their enthusiasm. We are grateful for the ways in which they have welcomed our volunteers to come and observe and the information and assistance they have provided, as they have shared their resources and experience. They have truly inspired and encouraged us.
And we are grateful to the Presbyterian Church in Canada who have provided us with a grant from the bequest fund that have funded us completely for the first year.
Next week we will add a third participant, and then I will work to recruit more volunteers so that we can welcome the fourth participant who is waiting to join us and then we can keep on building until we have the 6 to 8 participants that will round out our program.
Life is good. God is good. I am blessed. I may not be as dedicated to spending as much time in prayer as I was when I lived alone, but I am happy and I am engaged in meaningful and important ministry. This is a good place to be.
Thank you to all of you have walked with me these past few years, who have kept me in prayer and who have inspired me with your comments and through your own blogs. I have known your love and felt it’s strength.
Peace to you all.