Last week I was sitting at a table surrounded by adults who had come with their children to move them to college. I learned each of those people had lived in some place I had lived. Some of them are current military personnel, some are ARMY children, one is a basketball coach, one a pastor, all of them love to travel and value the gift of education. I sat with them enjoying the chance to talk to others who were letting their babies move away because they knew it was the best even as they wanted to hold them more tightly to keep them safe.
I enjoyed the unexpected morning conversation because I found a place to belong. Among strangers I found people who spoke my language, who laughed easily, who were brave, and who asked direct questions. I found that morning the continued challenge I have encountered this sabbatical – to find connections with others through sharing our stories. I do not want to let that challenge go upon my return to the church.
This sabbatical is ending on Monday. Come Monday I will return to the people and work I have been given. It will be good to see familiar faces and hear the voices of those I love. I have missed being in their presence. I have missed their stories.
Yet, as I return I am struck by my need to continue to make connections to others. I want to help others find a place of belonging. I find when I think about the future of my call to ministry I dream of ways to create moments of connection between people. I dream of people feeling they belong to a group of people who love them. I dream of people seeing the church building and instead of fear or anger, they see openness and love. I dream of people sitting together, singing together, praying together, and listening together as they learn about God’s love for them and how that matters.
As this sabbatical comes to an end I have been reflecting on my call to ministry, which is one of the major questions of this sabbatical. The answer I have discovered is that I have been called to help create community wherever I am planted. To do that I plan on spending my days combating the fear and anger forcing us to isolate ourselves. We are made for community, we are made for each other, and in honor of that truth I plan to spend my life creating connections and helping others feel they belong and are loved.
I am looking forward to the stories I am going to learn and those moments of belonging I stumble upon at unexpected moments just as I did last week.