Several years back, as my husband and I found our family "church shopping", we found Trinity Episcopal in Belleville. Oddly enough, our former church in Westland had often prayed for Trinity, so that had prompted us to step inside upon Trinity when we moved to this side of town. It's always uncomfortable making changes, however the early service at the other church, with two kids in tow, wasn't going to happen. We had found a few churches locally, but none of them "spoke to us" nor really filled the void where our children were concerned. We didn't want a baby-sitting service, we wanted a church our family could grow in, and Trinity felt like it might fit the bill.
We pretty much knew we had the right church as we stepped into Trinity to find many families with children of different ages. I also knew we'd found a home because there were folks comfortable enough to be themselves, they even wore jeans. Now before you say "Jeans? So what." Know that if my mom ever caught me wearing jeans to church, I'd be accused of a mortal sin. But denim, or khaki's are "me".
I certainly like to dress up, but I am conservative and comfortable in business casual. In my faith, I have always felt "not good enough". I haven't been strong enough to not swear. I have felt envy when a neighbor gets this or that. I have gossiped or spoken ill. I have not always been an exemplary mother. Basically I have not felt worthy nor deserving. I carry my guilt very heavily, and sometimes don't feel comfortable being myself because of it. At Trinity though, I felt like I was slipping into my sweats on a warm, sunny autumn weekend, sitting by the fireplace, sipping hot tea. I felt warm and invited. I felt comfortable. I felt a connection, and it was the right fit.
I'll never forget one of Father John's first sermon's I heard. It was a message that might as well have been just for me. It was a message about how none of us are worthy, and that's what makes us Christian. To make mistakes, to ask for forgiveness and to serve the Lord, that's what makes us worth.
I find peace and inner strength in giving to others, and have tried to instill gratitude and a giving heart to my children. I hope that I have done these things so that children can learn, develop and grow into be the best individuals they can be. But still there is guilt that I am not good enough. Father John's sermon's are often life stories and often take a humorous angle. Sometimes they include pop-culture references, and sometimes stories about parishioners. But always they are good, solid messages that we have listened to, thought about and enjoyed.
A year or so after we joined Trinity, my son started Cub Scouts. As a Tiger Cub, the boys begin to work on achievements and electives in their handbook, with one of them beginning to work on "Duty to God". For the elective, the boy can "invite a religious leader from his place of worship to his home", so we asked Father John to join us one evening.
As comfortable as I was with Trinity though, my children were still having a tough time warming up to anyone, in fact neither child would get near Father John or Deacon Dick, so bringing Father John to the house was going to get interesting no matter how you looked at it.
When he arrived that evening though, my children were all over him like a wet blanket. The sat on his lap. They crawled all over the couch where he was sitting. They sang for him. They played with him. They chatted with him and they danced for him. The dancing part became the problem though...
Somewhere my son had seen people dancing and slapping their behinds. In fact when we had visited my brother a few months earlier, my son had started dancing like this, and somehow he got the idea that doing so, while dropping is pants, was a good thing to do. In fact when he did it, it provoked gales of laughter from my brother, his wife, my mother and Michael and I. He had entertained us to a new level despite being discouraged to do so. Really?! Where would this child have gotten the idea of that kind of dancing. I now blame my brother.
So when the children started dancing for Father John that night, it was cute. At first. Then the dancing got a little louder. And it got a little crazier. And That's when my 5-year-old son started doing "the dance". Yes, THAT dance. The full-bodied, pole-stripper type dancing. Only without the pole. Of course Father John laughed, while I'm sure I began turning beet red. Then my son ran off to his bedroom, and to my complete horror tried to do the dance Uncle Andy though was exceptionally funny. Thankfully I stopped him before he showed off his - ah - other assets...
To this day I cringe when Father John tells stories, and I wonder when that particular story may pop into a sermon.
The Next Season
About 6 weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail from Trinity. This one was different though. This one made me cry. It was Father John's letter about how he and his wife Debbie were moving to a church in West Virginia.
Change is always challenging. People come in and out of our lives all the time, but change is never easy. And for me, this change was not going to be easy.
I haven't been a lifetime member at Trinity like so many others. In fact I still feel like the "newbie" 4+ years later. (This is my fourth season in the choir, so I know we've been at Trinity at least that long, but I'm not sure entirely when we first started attending.) Some of the folks have known Father John for their entire lives. Yet his leaving still hit me hard. What will happen when they leave? Will it affect my children? Will it affect me? Will we like the changes?
Today, we are saying goodbye. For now. As always the sermon delivered was very personal. Likely speaking to everyone in church in a very personal way. During the service we heard Ecclesiastes 3. It seemed very fitting for the changes we are about to go through. And it seemed fitting for our experience with Father John. I wanted to say something to him before he and Debbie left, but didn't know what that was. I wanted to buy a card for him today too, but had a hard time finding the right words. I did though, I found them in a beautiful hallmark Card. Thank you for sharing!