by Rev. Kate Mauch, Director of Care, Sycamore Presbyterian Church
The other morning, I got an email from the church that sponsored me all through seminary and the ordination process. The associate pastor is leaving to take a new position. While I’m happy for them, I also had an unexpected reaction to this news; it made me sad. After reflecting, I figured out that I was sad that this church, which I associate with feelings of home and security, is changing.
Let me back up a little. This was the first church I attended as an adult when I was living down south. It’s where I grew the most spiritually in my life to date, it’s where I had my son, it’s where I discerned my call and discovered my gifts and talents. It’s also where I worshiped during some of the hardest years of my life, where I sought pastoral care, where I grieved and where I survived even when it felt like I wouldn’t. It’s where I kept going through the darkest nights of my faith and where I saw the morning sun again.
In fairness, I haven’t been to this church in probably three years, though I communicate with the pastor on occasion. Most of the people I knew best have gone to be with God. The Sunday school class I once taught has merged with other, larger classes. I don’t know a single person in the knitting group anymore. My pew-mates have either moved away or passed away, and the kids I taught in VBS are now either in college or moved away. It’s different now, and I was struck by the sense that I could not go back to something I desperately wanted to cling to.
As I was wrestling with this, the Holy Spirit called my attention to the words of Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19 NIV).
I would love to cling to the past. My memories of that church are like an old favorite sweater, comfortable and warm. But to cling to the past would be to ignore the wonderful things God is doing and wants to do, if I can only perceive it. New faces bring new ideas to Sunday school, children have grown into faithful adults, and the people that spiritually grew up in that church are now able to help mentor others. The reach of my little home church has been expanded beyond measure, and I am confident that so much more is to come. I’m still a little misty when I think of what isn’t there anymore, and I think it’s okay for me to grieve the passing of those things, but I know that God also wants me to be open to what the future holds. I pray that God will comfort us as we grieve the losses in our lives, but also help us to perceive the new and wonderful things that God is doing, each and every day.