I warned you that I would soon post nostalgic musings about my life at St. John's. Well, here it is.
Today was my second to last Sunday there. Next weekend I'll be in Annandale with a bunch of teenagers on our winter youth retreat (God help me) and then my last Sunday is January 22. Yikes.
But today was just the kind of near-goodbye I was hoping for.
I needed someone to speak words of welcome to our new members on behalf of everyone in the pews during worship and the first person I asked agreed joyfully. Our new members showed up early, excited to join and I was able to greet them in the narthex. I remembered to put my lunch in the fridge before worship and ran into two of my favorite women in the restroom. We talked about my upcoming transition and one mentioned her great-grand baby was going to be in worship this morning. They were thinking about having her baptized sometime soon. How perfect on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday!
A second grader helped her mother prepare communion and later asked me why I hold my arms out when I pray behind the table. She's watching. Her sister let me know during the passing of the peace that the hymn boards and bulletin did not agree about which number we were about to sing. She's watching, too. I began my sermon from the pulpit, but I'll admit I saw a few people glazing over. "She's talking about baptism again," they were probably thinking. "Yeah, yeah. New beginnings. I need to remember to pick up toilet bowl cleaner at Target after this..."
So I came down and grabbed the bowl out of the font. I brought it into the aisle and got kids to help me splash people. Some of them woke up. The kids helped me show them that God tore the heavens open for each of us, as if God was saying, "There's no turning back now". God is in change and resolutions and new beginnings. God's spirit is giving us courage at every turn, transforming us and shocking us with grace. I teared up serving communion because sometimes I can tell when someone is having an especially meaningful experience with Christ through the bread and wine. And that moves me.
After worship I met a baby and caught up with a dear member I'll miss terribly. I relished a hug from Ken. It is always a firm handshake that moves into a half hug - a weekly gift from Christ I've come to need. I laughed and teased those I splashed. My stole was wet and it reminded me while I changed that God will be with me in my new beginning, too.
Members newish and old gathered in the lounge to chat with the family who joined minutes earlier. We shared about our first impressions of St. John's, what worship means to us and new connections sprouted from their stories exchanged. Then our little book club met. We talked about our most recent book and members of the group claimed the leadership it needed to continue.
I locked up the church aglow with the ways these people bear Christ to me every week. I believe in the power of church community, the body of Christ gathering weekly, because of the little things like these. They were a welcome distraction from my sick kid at home. I turned on my phone to find upchuck updates from my sorely underpaid baby daddy. I was glad to head home and relieve him, but took a long look at the corner of 49th and Nicollet before I put the car in drive. It was the last Sunday I'll lock up...and the little things made it one I won't soon forget.