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.