I took a moment the other day to scroll through my blog posts and those of my colleague, Rev. Jordan Davis. If you did the same, you may find that we agree on one thing about our work in Church Relations: we really love what we do.
It has been such an amazing journey to traverse the Mid-Atlantic in service to our Alma mater and in service to the Kingdom as we build relationship and listen to congregations with whom we visit. With a strong cup of hot coffee in hand, our Union swag nestled in the trunk and our clergy robes hanging in the back seat, we set off each Sunday to preach, present, and profess the mission and vision of Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Yet, there are always two sides to a coin. While we are gifted the chance to travel and engage a variety of congregations in locations far and wide, I often miss being home. And not my personal home, but my church home.
I am Reverend to Union Presbyterian Seminary, but not to a congregation where I serve Sunday after Sunday. People, places, and pulpits change each week! This dynamism is exciting but can also stir up feelings of being unknown. I often miss being in the presence of those in my faith community who truly know me. I was feeling this particular tug on my heart before heading out this past week for my visit to Lexington, Virginia. However, all of that changed when I stepped foot into Brady Chapel at Lexington Presbyterian Church.
I was scheduled to preach both services, the first being the informal worship service at 8:45am. I arrived and was greeted by alumnus, Rev. Bill Klein. We took a few moments to go over order for worship at this informal gathering, and I was surprised to see that there was no bulletin. My nerves began to set-in as I tried to remember our conversation while being introduced to several, warm folks.
Members greeted me with kind welcome and inquired if I was new or visiting, which is not unusual with this job. We chatted about Union over coffee and I shook hand after hand. However, I couldn’t shake the nagging insecurity about the coming service.
“Get with it,” I thought to myself, “grace abounds! It will be alright.” But I could not help myself relax.
It was not until I sat down in the front row of the gathered community, and the music began, that I was able to take a step back from my worried self and see that home was right in front of me.
These members assembled at a time, which might seem quite early for others, to hug one another, drink warm coffee, and commune. The body of Christ was gathered in this intimate space, singing songs from the Iona community, perhaps still shaking off slumber from the night before. Community joys and concerns were shared in announcements and prayer. By the time Bill nodded in my direction that it was time to read scripture and preach my sermon, I was moved by the love shared in that room. I was so moved, in fact, that I kicked off my shoes and connected with the holy ground upon which I stood. Home was in front of me, and I was did not want to miss-out because of my own insecurity.
Following the sermon, we communed at Table with one another. We sang more praise to the One who called us together in the first place. We extended hospitality with one another and we were sent out, again, to love and serve the Lord.
To be welcomed into an intimate gathering of the body of Christ is not unique to Lexington Presbyterian Church, though they do it very well. This was not my first experience with overwhelming warmth and welcome by a congregation with whom I visit. But that Sunday morning, with the help of God’s Spirit and the members of Lexington Presbyterian Church, I felt able to move my worried-self out of the way, in order to relax in the home surrounding me.
Rev. Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer