Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ten Year Anniversary thoughts....

On Sunday, my congregation celebrated my ten year anniversary at this church. Ten years! It's hard for me to imagine. We had coffee and cake between the services, and people shook my hand and said nice things to me. My parents, and husband and step-son came as well.

There was a basket for cards on the table, but one man wanted to give me his personally. It was a book, wrapped up, with a white rose attached to it. The rose was in one of those little plastic tubes of water, and he wanted to make sure that the water didn't leak out. As he put it in my hands, he said, "This is from (his wife's name) and me."

His wife died this past winter.

They had been married for over fifty years. She contracted polio in the epidemic after World War II, and had been in a wheelchair ever since. Ever since she was a young woman with two small children, she had lived in that wheelchair. He had had the house re-done so that she could do everything from her wheelchair. He had found more lucrative work, as an engineer rather than as a professor, so that he could afford the care she needed. He had spent most of their married life lifting her into and out of the wheelchair. He walks permanently stooped over from all those years of lifting and carrying her.

At her funeral last winter, I saw a captivating black and white picture of her, standing in the shallow part of a river. She was turning and smiling at the camera, and I thought, "I never really knew her."

On Sunday, as he put the book in my hand, he said, "This is from (his wife's name) and me."

The book was The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis.

I could tell you about the highlights of my ten years by telling you about the programs I have started, by the worship services I've designed, by the Bible Studies. I could tell you about Faith and Fiction, my book group, and the Bag Lunch Bible Study, and the Contemporary Worship Service, and the Empowering Couples Workshop. I could tell you about my favorite Lenten Series (Practicing our Faith), or the Biblical Monologues I wrote one year. I could point to the Animal Blessing Service last fall, or the Prayer Knitters Group.

Or, I could tell you about the failures: the young adults groups that never got off the ground, the Bible studies with three people in them, the Drama Group that I could never get enough people interested in, the time I invited High School students to Faith and Fiction to discuss the book Holes, and nobody came.

But to me, the ten years are all about people: the stooped-over man who teaches me about love; the young couple who got married and moved to New York; people who argue with me in Bible studies and people I run into at the grocery store; a shy woman who is beginning to become a leader; a young boy who laughed when I washed his feet "because the water was so cold!"; a 10th grade girl who carried the candle at Easter vigil and the boy who said he wanted to be a pastor; the woman who stood in the river long ago, and who lived in a wheelchair for so many years.

And the ten years are all about God's faithfulness in this place, among these people, and to me as well. They are about a God's faithfulness to us in our joy and in our pain, in our failures and in our successes, in the past, and as we lean into the future ... with fear and with faith.

Picture is from ten years ago.

27 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Oh, Diane, what a lovely post. I love the story of the gentleman with the book and the rose and how he loved his wife and cared for her. It gave me chills, good chills.

..as we lean into the future ... with fear and with faith.

Oh, yes.

Happy Anniversary, Diane.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

That's a beautiful story. I wonder if that was a favorite book of theirs. If so, then he has shared something very special with you, and that speaks volumes to me of the place you must have in your church.

I think you're absolutely right that it's all about relationships rather than activities.

Paul said...

I was just about to type "what a lovely post" but Mimi beat me to it. Hard to keep up with her, I'll tell you what.

A blessed anniversary to you and all the people of that place!

Songbird said...

So happy to hear of kind acts and signs of appreciation for you!

Jan said...

Diane, this is so nice. I love the picture! The story of the man and his wife is beautiful. The book is a treasure. What lovely memories for you all.

Diane said...

by the way, the little girl is my neice. she's sixteen now.

where did the years go???

FranIAm said...

I am sitting here weeping. What a post Diane.

God bless you for 10 years. You are His love made manifest in your ministry and you do it so beautifully.

And that photo is from 10 years ago? You look the same today - it is the great love that comes out of that smile of yours.

And that man... the flower, the book. Oh I am weeping all over again.

ROBERTA said...

Diane,
That was such a Holy Post!
Thank you....

P.S. an after-thought said...

Lovely reflection.

I attend a Bible study at church of three people. We invited the pastor to attend and she does. She looks forward to it as much as we do. It is a study listed in the bulletin and open to all, and open ended, but we're still just a small group that loves our study of the upcoming text.

Numbers don't necessarily reflect success or failure.

Jane R said...

Dear Diane, happy anniversary! What a warm welcoming smile in that picture. I was very moved by the love story you shared -- this is real love that doesn't make its way into the pop music songs... Thank you for sharing your blessings with you -- and I share your prayers of thanksgiving.

Presbyterian Gal said...

What a gorgeous story! And isn't it humbling to realize that those we see week in and out and think we know can be such beautiful strangers?

Beautiful post. Happy Anniversary! You're a blessing to your church and to us as well.

Rev SS said...

My peers have said it well. Lovely, heartwarming post. Happy Happy Anniversary, Diane, and blessings on your ministry for the next 10 years.

DogBlogger said...

Beautiful.

Happy Anniversary.

more cows than people said...

crying here too... such love in this post. such love.

davenu said...

...but to me, the ten years are about the people...

My pastoral mentor once told me that in order to be a pastor, you first must love God and love God's people. You obviously have a passion for both.

Congratulations on your ten year anniversary.

David

GreenishLady said...

Blessings to you on your anniversary. I love that you name the things that didn't work out along with the things that were successful. It's all part of the work, I suppose.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

Diane what a wonderful reflection from a woman whose heart is with the people she's been called to serve... it's not surprising they honored you so.

Funky Grampa said...

What an apt valedictory for a ten year anniversary of priestly service! Or any year anniversary of such service.

LittleMary said...

beautiful post. so good to look back, no?

Mary Beth said...

Splendid and lovely. Felicitations!

zorra said...

Wonderful reflections...and here's to the next ten years.

Choralgirl said...

Hey, congratulations, Diane. :-)

Honestly, I think we learn much more from failure than from success. I recently talked with a young man about to graduate from college, who was talking about that very thing. He wants to develop his own resume of failures as a teaching tool and spiritual practice.

Wish I'd been that insightful at 22!

Choralgirl said...

Published before finishing...

Blessings to you in your continuing ministry, and I'm glad you had such a lovely day. :-)

Wyldth1ng said...

Remarkable.

Sue said...

Beautiful post Diane. Blessings on ten years in ministry!

Tracy said...

That post is just beautiful!

Thanks for always telling a wonderful story and for being a big reason why our church feels so welcoming - like coming home! Congratulations on 10 years.

Tracy

Lindy said...

Congratulations. And everything everyone else said.

I'm thinking more than I'm saying.