For months our prayer has been that God would prepare a place for us, where Nancy and I could once again minister as a team. A place where we can be life giving and which is life giving for us. We accepted the call to St Paul’s, Jeffersonville as Co-pastors, finding some initial signs that this was indeed a place prepared for us. This past weekend we were in Jeff (as they call it) to be with the people of St. Paul’s for their 175th Anniversary celebration.
The weather was warm but not as warm as the welcome we have received from members and friends of the parish, from the bishop and area clergy and from people in the community we met while there. It was an uplifting and joyous service with Bishop Cate Waynick presiding and preaching. Before and after the service we met the people of St Paul’s and had an opportunity to talk with them and begin to get to know them. It was obvious to us that this is indeed a place God has prepared.
Some of the preparation has been in us, and some of the preparation has been with the people of St Paul’s with their recent difficult history. We were able to begin our journey together with this initial getting to know one another.
On Monday we had a whole new sense of God preparing a place for us. We had used that phrase in prayer more figuratively than literally. On Monday we saw it literally embodied. We had in this instance forgotten that God uses people to work his will. We had inquired at our first meeting with the Vestry of St Paul’s if we might live in the rectory next door to the church. It has been many years since a rector lived there. But it is a grand old lady of a home – built at the end of the 19th century. The parish office had occupied part of the first floor of the rectory. Nancy and I figured we could use the rest of the space.
One parish warden, Ann McBride, who was in charge of their recent renovation of the church, has taken on the renovation of the rectory project. On Monday she showed us the offices newly moved to the education wing of the parish facility and the work being done on the rectory. Rather than just a little clean-up and a coat of paint the parish has moved the office out of the rectory, restored the dining room, is repairing plaster, installing new appliances, renovating the bathroom, putting in marble for the counter top and splash guard in the kitchen, and sealing up the attic. The parish and the workers are literally, physically, preparing a place for us in which to live and work as well as to worship and serve with them.
Our sense of gratitude is overflowing that they are taking so deeply and literally the task of preparing a place so we can minister together on God’s re-creation project. We are reminded yet again of God’s way of working through God’s people to accomplish his purpose.
On Sunday , after noting that the scripture reading from Genesis spoke of Laban’s chicanery in substituting one daughter for another in marriage, of Jacob’s stealing of his brother’s birth-right, and other less than honorable human actions, Bishop Cate said in her sermon that God can work with all that – can work with our imperfections, our hurts as well as our strengths to achieve a greater good.
As Nancy and I come closer to beginning this new chapter of our life we give thanks for the place that is being prepared and pray that we too are being prepared for bringing health and healing to God’s people in this new land where God is bringing us. And together may we and the people of St Paul’s prepare a place of hospitality, welcome and healing for more of God’s people.