The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program was curious about our answer to this question. Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that; because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So my wife, Chan, and I asked ourselves, and we immediately knew the answers. Our hearts sing most when we’re together, occupying the same space. Being mountain people, we vacation at the beach, and we know from vast experience that an escape to the sea is a gift for the soul. I am a runner. My heart comes alive every time I lace up the shoes and run out the front door. We are missionaries, drawn to new places and new people.
Lost in curiosity, we sometimes get lost in the city. And we’ve learned to get lost on purpose. We discover hidden markets and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. We’ve happened upon cathedrals and street musicians. The real joy is discovering people—unique creations of God with beautiful stories. Our hearts come alive in our vocations. My calling into the ministry came in the form of the five-word phrase, “I want you to preach,” and preaching in the context of the local church has become one of life’s great joys for me. As a nurse, Chan comes alive when caring for people who need healing and hope. We love our jobs because we love our people, and we love the stories they tell.
Our design team and church leaders asked, “What makes the church’s heart sing?” The answers were also quick to the surface. First United Methodist Church Waynesville loves to sing. The sanctuary is especially built for it, and the people are wired for it. From organ to orchestra, electric guitar to banjo, soloist to chamber choir, music is vital to this group’s journey. Music tells a story with power to transform the soul. And the music inspires movement. What really gets the heart beating around here is the opportunity to serve the community. This church comes alive when the community is in need. This church loves the people of Waynesville, and loves the stories they tell.
Our renewal program will connect us with the things that make our hearts sing—and will resemble a pilgrimage. The classic pilgrimage was marked by a sense of spiritual purpose and renewal, with a basic understanding that one’s life would be transformed by the journey. For Keith and Chan, their journey together will include a pilgrimage of medieval origin. They will explore mountains and beaches, get lost in markets and cathedrals, and run ancient pilgrim trails.
They will meet new people, discover new places, and capture life-giving stories. FUMC Waynesville will be on pilgrimage too. Sunday morning worship and Wednesday evening programs will take the congregation to new places and new people. The church will be exposed to diverse cultures—they will enjoy the food, be inspired by the music, and be transformed by the stories. Ruth Feldman describes what we have in mind:
I took a long time getting here, much of it wasted on wrong turns, back roads riddled by ruts.
I had adventures
I never would have known
if I proceeded as the crow flies.
Super highways are so sure of where they are going:
they arrive too soon.
A straight line isn’t always
the shortest distance between two people.
Sometimes I act as though I’m heading somewhere else while, imperceptibly,
I narrow the gap between you and me.
I’m not sure I’ll ever
know the right way, but I don’t mind getting lost now and then.
Maps don’t know everything.