By Rev. Becky Brown
Keith and I spent last Tuesday with the majority of the clergy in our district. We gathered at FUMC in Franklin to get to know our new District Superintendent, Linda Kelly. It is always good to get together with other clergy who serve churches nearby. Our lives in ministry together here at FUMC in Waynesville are so fast paced and immersive, and our work together is wonderful and full of the fruit of the kingdom. Because of these truths, I can easily become consumed by this small corner of the world. It is refreshing to be around others who serve in Haywood County and other neighboring counties. It is a reminder to me of the great work churches of all sizes and cultures are engaging in, for the good of the kingdom.
The first order of business of the morning together was worship. It is such a great gift to simply worship God alongside other faithful souls. I don’t have to think about what I have to say next, don’t have to look over the scripture ahead of time to make sure I know how to pronounce unfamiliar names and places. I don’t have to worry about saying the “right” things in the “right” way. Worship moments like these are hard to come by. I appreciate the freedom to get lost in God’s presence.
As a response to Rev. Kelly’s sermon, she asked us to think of the first person who shared with us the love and grace of God. She invited us to spend time meditating on the person who helped our faith come alive, the person who helped us recognize that God is real and alive. For me, that person was my youth pastor in high school, Jenny. She was appointed straight out of seminary at Duke to my youth group at Mt. Sylvan UMC in Durham. She was cool because she was originally from Los Angeles, she drove a hunter green Mustang GT, and she could do French braids faster than anyone I’ve ever known. Jenny was outstanding because of her unique and powerful presence. She had a way of teaching the youth and sharing about the Bible that I had never experienced before. I had so many questions about faith, being a Christian in general, and was trying to work through a call to ministry. She made herself available to me, took time out of her busy schedule and shared breakfast or a snack with me, and listened – really listened – to the questions and yearnings I had. She showed me with such great love, and I experienced Jesus through her. She didn’t just answer my questions quickly or wave me off when I asked something outrageous about the historical timeline in relation to dinosaurs and Adam and Eve. She helped me learn how to find answers to some of my questions on my own, and encouraged me to think deeply about God and my faith. She made me feel safe, needed, adored, and worthy. She was a gift to me at a very pivotal time in my life. I’m so thankful I had someone like her during those formative years.
After we spent time reflecting in worship beside other clergy, we were invited to come forward and light a candle in honor (or memory) of the person God placed in our hearts. After worship we were encouraged to take the candle home, light it, and remember the light of Christ shines within each of us. That really got me thinking. We each have unique opportunities each and every day to be “that person” that shares God’s light and love. Think about it. Think about how many people you interact with in the course of one day. How might you slow down, listen with great attention and purpose, and truly help someone else come to know or understand more deeply the love of Jesus? God’s presence through us is powerful, full of hope, and full of grace. We are surrounded by people, of all ages, who are aching for it. Lead us, Lord.