When I began ministry at Richfield UMC, I was the first woman appointed as Lead Pastor. It became clear that there was some swirl of unease and unhappy about that. It also became clear that there was plenty of ease and happy about it as well.
At my introductory interview, one of the good men seated at the table informed me that the lead pastor always led the Men’s Bible Study at 8:00 AM on Wednesday mornings. He shared that information as a way to inform me that come Wednesday, I would be studying scripture with men of the church.
And so I did and so I do.
The group of men gathered on Wednesday mornings has powerfully impacted my ministry. From the grand vantage point of more than ten years of life shared, I am poignantly aware that being able to share life and faith with the men gathered every week has helped me to grow as person and as pastor.
I have fallen in love many times over with the cast of goodness, wisdom and heart brought to the table by each of the men.
Learning to love is not without pain.
“My guys” are dying. I just concluded the funeral of a man grounded and near illegally funny. He would take in what was going on around him and with impeccable timing he would lob out a one-liner that split us wide open with laughter. He was a man who loved tenderly and largely. I will miss Charlie greatly.
As I was readying to lead a wedding on the day of Charlie’s funeral, I picked up the phone to check on another one of my teachers. He has been struggling with cancer as long as I have known him. He has done so with the kind of grace and willingness to be honest about challenge that has marked his being in the world. The cancer is run amok in his body. He is dying.
When I came to Richfield, he observed the antics of some of the not-so-keen-on-having-a-woman-pastor folk. He saw it going on and took upon himself the role of mediator and protector. Respected by his peers, he sought to grow understanding and grace and he had my back and forevermore he has my heart.
He lived his discipleship in the trenches of church muck; heroic Jesus-following for sure.
I’m not sure how to live my thanks for the love shared with these and so many other fine souls whose lives have blessed and stretched me. I can tell their stories at funerals and hear the hearts of their families as they grieve and share the good news of ongoing life in the heart of Jesus and all these things are true and so too is this:
Love is grand and life is peopled with stunning glory and my heart beats gratitude and grief.
A wonder it is to love and be loved.
Yes, yes . . . (sigh). Once again, thank you, Elizabeth!
In the hardness is the tenderness, effort creates value but the suffering is tough when the end is not clear. Only faith leads us up the hill and around the corners. Bless you