Colette started coming to our congregation several years ago. She came to our early service, which was traditional and liturgically Lutheran. She came every week by herself. I didn't get a chance to do more than say "hello" for awhile, but I noticed her right away.
Colette is African American, so she didn't really fit the demographic of our early, traditional service. Well, actually, she didn't really fit the demographic of any of our services. Before I had a chance to get to know her, I remember wondering if perhaps she came from an AME (African Methodist Episcopal) background. One of my friends in seminary was AME, and he told me that they had a 'traditional' vs. 'contemporary worship' divide in his congregation too.
Later on, Colette brought her daughter and grandson with her to worship, and they switched over to the later, more contemporary worship service. There are more children at that service. Her grandson was in 5th grade and hadn't been baptized. Both Colette and her grandson started taking pre-baptism classes. They asked good questions. Both of then were baptized at Easter-time, Colette at the Easter Vigil.
It was wonderful.
Throughout the years, I've had the opportunity to get to know Colette a little better, hear a little of her story. I learned that she is a woman of courage. She left her home and came to a new city to make a better life for herself. And she came to our congregation, and she stays. For a long time (being clueless, myself), I had no idea what an act of courage that was. I love how she comes up sometimes on those Sundays when we invite prayers for healing, and simply asks for prayers for the church. She cares about the congregation and wants us to be faithful and light-filled. I wish we realized what a gift she is.
Colette has said, more than once that she believes that God sent her here, that she is supposed to be here. I believe that she is right. And what if congregations believed that about the people who come? Those people who visit once, who return, who stay -- what if we believed that God sent them to us, both to receive and to give? What if we were always on the lookout for the ones that God is sending to us? I like to imagine that if we began to believe this, we would enter into holy conversations, realizing that we have so much to teach and learn from each other, believing that God has a plan for our lives, together.
What if each one of us believed, like Colette, that God has sent us here? What if we believed that when we come to worship, when we gather, that we are supposed to be here? And what if we also believed, when we go, that we are going to the place where God is sending us, to heal, and to be healed?