One Month In:
A Message from Pastor Candy
This week, Ellie drew a map. “Look, mama!” she said. “It’s our neighborhood!”
She proceeded to give me a tour of the most important landmarks on her map. “This is our house,” she said, pointing at a shape in the corner. “And this is Nanie’s house,” she continued, indicating her grandmother’s house nearby (and more importantly, her grandmother’s pool nearby). “And this,” she said with a flourish, “is the church.”
“Our new church?” I asked.
“Yeah!” she replied. “I love our new church. It’s so beautiful.”
One month into this new appointment and Ellie already considers Wesley to be her church. I was pleased — relieved, even — to hear it. After all, when I transitioned to my last congregation, Ellie was just a few weeks old. That church wasn’t just her church “home” — it was the only church she had ever known. And now, after just a few short weeks, Ellie has claimed Wesley as her church, her community.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Ellie’s “claim” on Wesley had something to do with that moment last Sunday when she made a new friend, a friend who invited her to join in as a greeter (thanks, Isabel). I watched as my little girl — a shy creature, at least at first, in unfamiliar situations — stood at the front doors of the church, smiling and waving and shaking hands with so many of you.
Maybe it was that moment in the atrium, after church, when Ellie saw the hustle and bustle of the backpack stuffing day and decided to join in. She grabbed a backpack and started moving down the table, filling it with pencils and notebooks and highlighters, not yet fully grasping the scope or purpose of the “We Got Your Back” event, but still happy to be part of the effort.
Or perhaps it was that moment when Ellie joined Noah and me at a family-friendly meet-and-greet (shout out to our hosts, the Ksenzakovic family!). She made herself right at home, running around a new house, playing with new toys, and joining new church friends in games that reportedly included “Pokemon diving” (whatever that is!). On the way home, she asked, “Mama, when are we coming back?”
Perhaps it was one of those moments, or a combination of the two, or another moment altogether. But at some point in these last few weeks, something has caused my Ellie to feel a true part of the life of Wesley. Something has compelled her to plant her foot firmly on the floor of the atrium and say (if only to herself): This is my community. I belong here.
That sense of belonging happens in the small moments of church, I think. The first time you sit in a pew and the person who usually sits behind you greets you by name. The moment some acquaintance asks you if you go to a church and you no longer say, “I’m kind of church shopping right now.” The afternoon when you’re cleaning out your car and find a pretty sizeable collection of church bulletins stuffed under the seat. The first time you make a ‘get-well, hang-in-there’ casserole for someone in the church. The first time you receive one (never underestimate the healing properties of a church casserole). The moment of realization, at some point after you’ve joined a Bible study or bell choir or backpack stuffing day, when it just hits you: I am a part of something bigger. This is my community. I belong here.
Those small, profound moments become gateways for us, gateways of community. And those of us who have been part of the community for some time have the opportunity, the responsibility, the privilege to help others access those gateways — by engaging with those who are new to the community: learning their names, hearing their stories, inviting them to serve as a greeter or join in a Bible study or ring in a bell choir or stuff a backpack or whip up a casserole. Those of us who have been part of the community for some time can be travel guides.
I’ll be looking for “travel guides,” in a more formal way, as we launch some ‘new member’ gatherings this fall — watch for more information on that in the weeks to come. But in the meantime, may each of us seek out the quiet, subtle, seemingly small yet utterly profound ways to help others around us feel connected to this community of faith, to help others come to that moment when they, too, can say: This is my community. I belong here.