We are now a full week into the season of Lent. During Lent, we participate in inner reflection. Some of us practice fasting, praying, or giving more graciously. I believe these 40 days help us re-focus, turning our hearts and our lives back to God.
One practice that works for me is taking time to read a short devotion each morning in my office before opening up my computer or my calendar. This year, I am reading “The Sanctuary for Lent 2018” by Katie Z. Dawson. In connection to Jesus being led into the wilderness in Luke 4:1, she writes, “The wilderness is liminal space, a threshold. It is the time in between. This transitional space lasts for forty days; for Jesus, it is forty days of discomfort, waiting, fasting, wrestling, and transformation. Forty days of trial and temptation. For Jesus, forty days is the right amount of time it takes to get ready for whatever comes next.”
I am particularly drawn to this idea of transition. Transition can be a very difficult and uncomfortable feeling to sit in. At times it is more scary than exciting to think about what comes next. But it is also true that we are always in transition. We are pilgrims on a spiritual and earthly journey in which destination has never really been the point. We have moments of arrival, but we are always arriving, which means we are always being called by God from one season, one place, one vocation, one action, to the next. An openness to the movement of the Spirit is what helps us grow and transform.
As migrant people, we encounter one another through all sorts of transitions in our lives. Lately, I have been thinking about transitions our older adults make when they can no longer come to church. Dot Turner, one of our faithful 8:30 church-goers, is now experiencing this transition due to her health. Her daughter, Vicki Warren, wrote a note on what Belle Meade has meant to her. With Vicki’s permission, I share it with you:
“Be aware, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Over the past 2 years that Mom and I have been attending the early service, each and every one of you have reached out to us with loving arms. You have graciously accepted Mom with her advanced dementia and physical limitations. Though Mom's mental health is practically nil and her physical health is waning, her spiritual health is strong and continues to grow. You have provided us a place for that. As I sit with Mom in church and see her tears when she sings and when she prays, and watch her smile when she is greeted with such loving smiles and hugs, I know that her connection to God remains alive. During this journey we've shared there have been times when I'm convinced Mom sees some of what is on the other side, where all of our knowledge is useless and only love remains. That is what we feel in this community, and I am so grateful.”
What a gift our community has been to Dot, and what a gift Dot has been to our community. I ask you to hold this transition in your prayers, but I also ask you to pray for what comes next. Dot, like many members of our church who can no longer be physically present, will remain a part of our lives. As one member has said, “I know that she will miss coming to church, but we will continue to bring church to her.” In fact, for the last year, we have been working hard to create a Congregational Care Team. This team visits our homebound members regularly, and as you can guess, the Spirit is seen and experienced in the midst of these sacred encounters.
I would love to tell you what I have witnessed through this team. Since October, we have been gathering once a month to take Communion to our homebound members. Katherine Massey loves taking her 4-year-old daughter, Annie, on these visits, and her people love seeing Annie! Carol Cartwright recently knit a prayer cloth for a church member and had a beautiful experience offering her communion. In the midst of dementia, she lit up and remembered the sacrament. Betty Lassing faithfully visits many members of our church every single week, taking bulletins and sharing devotions. Lindsay Bridges jumps on opportunities to help you write to these members. She will prepare a way for you to send Easter Cards to our friends. David Drummel has been gracious and hospitable in his visits for years, forming deep relationships cherished by so many. Lou Wilkin, a new member of our church, loves singing hymns and taking baked goods to the people she visits. Leigh and Mike Voyles describe themselves as the ones blessed by these moments.
In Leigh’s own words, she writes, “My mother Sarah had such a generous spirit, and I was truly inspired by her benevolence. She loved our church and its members and we all loved her. I was able to spend most days of the last year of her life by her side at Brookdale Belle Meade. In that time I learned what it meant to simply share a smile, a hug, sing a song or dine with folks whose days had become quieter and lonelier than their earlier years. When mom passed away, I really missed being there and then I heard about our Congregational Care Team and joined in the efforts of this great group! There are currently six of our congregants residing at Brookdale Belle Meade, and I sincerely consider it a privilege to share time with these church members who helped lay the foundation for us. Beyond that, it is a way for me to honor and remember my mother...and it fills my soul.”
Like many on our team who acknowledge holidays and birthdays, Leigh delivered these special Valentine’s bouquets to our congregants at Brookdale Belle Meade.
We know that transition is difficult, and we should give ourselves the space to grieve what is lost. But let us also look for and anticipate new ways the Spirit will be at work. I hope this season of Lent, this time of preparation and transformation, will bless you with opportunity and hope for whatever comes next on the journey.
Grace and peace,