This fall I joyfully passed the fifteen year mark serving United Church of Woodhull. This has caused a lot of reflection, looking back at photographs, and reviewing many of the words I have written. I have laughed at old photographs, been amazed that I have forgotten some of the projects we did, re-read words I wrote while wondering how I managed to sound so articulate, and looked over the names of people and families I have known.
I keep a book full of the names of people I have been present for their special services. I record weddings, baptisms, confirmations, affirmations of faith, funerals, commissionings, and ordinations. I enjoy looking through this book and recalling those moments. There are so many holy moments recorded in this book. I know most clergy keep a record, especially since we tend to travel to new communities; and because I serve a small congregation, in a rural area, my numbers are much lower than some of my colleagues. I also know our joy and sorrow is of the same nature.
One of the unique points of these lists is that the number of people on our list often is more than the number of people we see in the pews on a Sunday morning. I remember being told by many I would reach this milestone, so it does not come as a surprise. I think what surprises me the most is how clearly I can recall the moments behind each one of those names and dates.
I remember the soft laughter when I was baptizing someone more than a foot taller than me. I remember the outdoor service years ago when I waited for the train to go by before I finished the installation liturgy. I remember the wedding when I lost my voice so it sounded like I was crying through the whole service. I remember seeing a work team surrounded by a whole congregation as we prayed together. I remember all those moments when I looked out at a grieving family. I also remember all the teenagers who tried to make me laugh during a solemn moment because they were confident in their ability to make me laugh loudly.
I have so many holy moments that make up the past fifteen years. I never expected that much goodness to come my way. I am deep in the preparation for Advent and the coming new year, and I suppose that causes my reflections to be a bit more serious. I arrived here a parent with young children, still in my twenties, with almost no experience about life in a worshipping community. I arrived confident I had been called to this place to learn with a community what it means to live this faith in the Triune God. I was looking for a place to call home, and a people to welcome me and my family to grow in love. That prayer has been answered over and over again.
I am thankful as I look back over the names on my list for each of those opportunities to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. I am thankful for each person, each family, and each chance to experience life connected to others. Fifteen years have gone by and I remain amazed I have been given this opportunity. I look forward to what God will bring next.
In case you are wondering, here are the numbers from my list: Weddings – 14. Ordinations – 18. Commissionings – no less than 32 (a couple entries were lacking complete notes). Baptisms – 34. Installations – 36. Confirmations/Affirmations of Faith – 53. Funerals – 90.