Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Thinking About Fifty Years

There's nothing quite like burying a 50-year time capsule to get you thinking about the big stuff.




What am I doing here and does it even really matter?

On Sunday, as part of our church's 300th anniversary celebration members of our congregation wrote personal stories and notes on colorful slips of paper. We then placed them in a time capsule with the intention of having it opened by our church's members in 2073. 

Admittedly, the idea of 2073 sent my mind wandering.

Thoughts of climate catastrophes and natural disasters settled in first. Is there any way that this spot where we are burying this time capsule right now will still hold it safely in 50 years? 

I hope so, was the honest answer playing in my mind as I looked at my 13-year old son sitting next to his cousins.

It was surreal periodically catching his eye as we moved through the service. The math of 50 years is unmistakable. Fifty years ago my parents were not even married yet. Fifty years from now these two people who have given so much to our church community won't be here to reopen that time capsule.

From my position up front with the praise band there were many times when I felt the tears well up as I looked out over the room of people who have been so impactful in my life. And as I felt the presence of those now gone who once occupied those church pews.

There is something deeply powerful about the way we are all connected through time and space.

I kept reminding myself to fully take in the moment, almost as if pinching myself in order to embrace the beauty of what we were doing there together.

During our service, as members came forward to place their personal notes in the time capsule we sang From the Inside Out by Hillsong United. The chorus felt particularly poignant.

Your Light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your Glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out

As I watched everyone bring forward a piece of their own story and place it into the capsule, I thought about the many special moments I had experienced within this congregation over my lifetime. It was like a beautiful movie playing with too many supporting characters to count - so many distinct puzzle pieces coming together in beautiful community.

On my own paper, I wrote about Joe's death and how that led me to partner with my mom and others to bring the GriefShare program to our church.  There have been hundreds of people who have found care and support in that space we created over these last 12 years. Joe's death was awful, but what a legacy it is that God took that worst moment in my life to speak to the worst moments of so many others. 

Outside at the end of our church service, we gathered around and sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness as my nephew placed the capsule in the ground. Later that afternoon, my son and his Confirmation Class helped shovel the dirt on top of it, burying all that we had poured into those notes for the next 50 years.

My son and his classmates will be 63 years old.

If I am still alive I will be 95. I thought of this as I looked at the older members of my church and imagined myself in their shoes. I hope my life is held to be even a fraction as faithful and impactful as I have known theirs to be.

The reality is that many members of our current church congregation will have died by the time that capsule is reopened. That's tough to swallow, but if there is any lesson to be taken in from the 300 years of our church's existence, it is that a legacy built on following God endures. Things may look different 50 years from now in ways that we cannot even imagine today, but I believe in God's love and the power of community to meet that moment.

What a special gift it will be for the members of our future church to read the stories of the church of 2023. Fifty years from now, much will likely have faded, but the assurance that God's light is everlasting and that a new generation will be able to have their souls cry out encourages me beyond words.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Three Hundred Years is a Big Cloud of Witnesses

It’s January 21, 2023 and today my church - Kingston Presbyterian - celebrated 300 years as an established faith community. For the last 45 years of those 300, this has been my church community and for the last 100+ years, it has been the church community of my extended family. 

My soul is filled as I think back over all KPC has meant to me and my family over a century of seeking God, doing justice, and loving mercy. It hasn’t always been perfect or happy and there have been plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, but I have learned to love God, love others, and do things I never imagined I could do - all within this small community rooted in God’s love.

So many significant parts of my childhood and teen years reside within and outside the four walls of our church building. There were youth group sleepovers where we played games like hide and seek and capture the flag - and where we rarely ever actually slept. I learned to serve with others at our work camps in Maine and had fun at Vacation Bible School. There were musicals like Jonah and Christmas pageants galore. We grew closer to God and each other through weekend retreats to Lake Champion and camping at the Creation Music Festival. I learned to play hand bells and even found a space in our praise band. Through this faith community, I have made some of my most precious friends.

At KPC, I grew up marking most Easter mornings with a sunrise service at Lake Carnegie in Princeton, a tradition I enjoy now with my own son. For as long as I can remember Christmas Eve has meant the beauty of Silent Night by candlelight and a new ornament for our tree. These special moments and many others like them didn’t just happen spontaneously. They were tended with love by the many faithful witnesses in our congregation - some who are still with us and many more who are not.

KPC was the first true intergenerational community I came to know and a space that has been full of encouragers and role models over the years. It is where I was baptized and then, 32 years later, my own son was baptized. It is where I gained the confidence to speak in public and to take on leadership roles at a young age. It is where I was supported in trying new things and venturing out beyond my comfort zone. What a privilege that I have also been able to witness the same encouragement shown to my son and to so many others over the years.

This church is the community that surrounded me with endless practical support, love, and prayers when our young family experienced the crushing loss of my husband Joe. They wept with us, cared for us, and encouraged me to continue turning to God with all of the pain I held. I am forever grateful for those who shared their own stories of grief, love, and resilience during that time. Miraculously, this church is also where that deep loss has transformed into the ability to support so many other people who are grieving the death of a loved one through our church's now 10 year old GriefShare ministry. 

As we gathered today as a church community, I marveled at the way that we each impact one another, sometimes in ways that we never even understand or could possibly foresee. A gift that I had forgotten about giving holds a place of prominence for the person who received it. The care of a beloved church member in meticulously recording the details of past church events brings joy and laughter even years after her death. The "painting genes" of a great grandparent gently reveal themselves in the effort of her great-grandson.
Celebration Lunch at KPC 1/21/2023

This is the beauty of community - that together we are better and stronger than any one of us separately and that there is tremendous power when we follow those gentle nudgings of God's voice. Today I am thankful for the cloud of witnesses that has made Kingston Presbyterian Church what it is these 300 years later and I am looking forward to a year full of events to both honor that history and love and spur us on to new challenges ahead.