The People In The Mess With You

Old South Church, United Church of Christ in Windsor, Vermont

Here is a post about my church. You don't have to be religious to read it. It does help if you like people and seek a place in a larger group of them, but my family's image of - or even belief in - God doesn't need to match yours for this to speak to you.

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My son Dalton was confirmed last weekend. Old South Church in Windsor welcomed him with open arms, as they've been doing since the day he was born. He and his classmate studied the curriculum with their pastor and their teacher; they gave deep thought to the questions of their faith and our denomination; and they made the decision to become fully participating members. 

Dalton and Michelle, confirming their faith and becoming full members of Old South Church

When confirmands join Old South, they get three gifts. The first is a Bible -- a reference for them when they wrestle with the big questions in life, and a reminder of who God Is. Second, they receive a pledge card -- a reminder that they are now in a relationship with this place, and that this place needs their contributions to continue its work in the community and the greater world. Finally, they get an apron -- a symbol of the work we still have left to do. We are here to be the hands, face, and voice of God. And sometimes, when we work with our hands we get a little messy. 

Old South has been getting messy for and with my family since the day we first arrived, helping to raise my kids before they were even born. The day we bought our first house, we had no family nearby and knew hardly anyone in the Upper Valley. I was 4 1/2 months pregnant with our first child and not allowed to move more than a few throw pillows. I had no idea how we were going to get our stuff from our apartment in Claremont to our new place in Windsor. But I was told not to worry about it because someone from the church was going to help us out. When I answered the knock at the door on moving day, 13 people from OSC stood before me, ready to load the truck, drive with us to Windsor, and move our stuff into our new home. After I plopped the pillows on the couch, I walked up to Pizza Chef to buy everyone lunch, and that short walk was the most taxing part of my day. I had no idea who some of those 13 people were at the beginning of that day, but by the end, they were essential members of our family. It's 16 years later, and we still couldn't live without them. 

There was so much more of life to be shared with our church family in the ensuing years: 9/11, the birth of Dalton, the loss of several medically fragile students on my caseload, marital and financial crises, coffeehouses, retreats, a dear parishioner's bout with breast cancer, Vacation Bible Schools, anniversaries, historical moments, and, of course, my diagnosis. Nothing has been clean and simple, but the joys have been made more full and the grief has been eased because we've traveled this path in covenant with each other. Long after I'm gone, my children will be surrounded by this found-family of ours, upheld in their grief, fiercely protected in their trials, needed for the gifts they bring to the table, and loved beyond measure. My hope for you is that you will find your village as we have found ours, no matter your belief system, level of introversion, or busy schedule.  

When I think of the big, beautiful mess that has been my life over the past two decades, I'm so grateful for the good people at Old South Church who strapped on their aprons, rolled up their sleeves, and climbed right in to join with me and help clean up the aftermath. No matter what I must withstand, I know that I will never be standing alone. 

Just in case you are searching for a village like I've described here, please know that Old South Church welcomes everyone and would love to see you any Sunday morning at 10 am.

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