A place that makes me very happy
Do you remember my story about the image of the village?
It happened in mid-February of this year. I'd just discovered that God was inviting me to take a journey with him through an unknown woods. I was humbled by the invitation, but also pained. It meant saying goodbye to life as I'd known it in some ways. It came before I was ready to say yes.
A few days after the invitation into the woods presented itself, I had a session with my spiritual director, Elaine. I was telling her of my difficulty saying yes to God's invitation, and she posed an interesting question: Do you have any sense of what's on the other side of the woods?
Well, no. I didn't.
So she asked, Do you want to ask God what's on the other side?
I hadn't ever thought to do so, but the idea appealed to me. So I did. I asked him, knowing full well -- and even telling him so -- that he didn't have to show me what was on the other side, that seeing the other side shouldn't be the thing that would make me say yes to entering those unknown woods. But I figured, Why not? If he chooses to show me, awesome. If he doesn't, then I can still work my way through this struggle of saying yes, and I knew eventually I would get to the yes.
And you know what? He chose to show me what was on the other side. That's when he showed me the village.
All this time, since February, I have wondered about that village. It was so clear in the image that it was a place Kirk and I would enter together, a place and a community that would be a part of both our lives. Jesus and I would travel through the woods together and alone, but on the other side, eventually Kirk would join us and we would encounter the village.
I had no idea what this "village" would be. But I did know one thing: Kirk and I have prayed for five long years for community. We have wondered at times about starting a house church in our home. At other times, we've prayed about starting a monthly gathering of artists in our home. We have searched and prayed for a place to belong, a group of people with whom we could do life, with whom we could know and be known.
What we sought was more than friendship. What we sought was a place to belong.
I had no idea what the village would look like when it emerged in our life, but I can tell you now: we have come upon it and begun to enter in.
It began in June.
An episcopal church around the corner from our house, called All Saints, was starting a new contemplative eucharist service on Sunday nights. We'd attended the weekly noonday eucharist service on and off at that church over the last few years, but very intermittently. It was a quiet, sacred service we could attend during the lunch hour now and then, when we had a Wednesday lunch hour free, but our attendance was quite irregular.
But this contemplative eucharist service, which we also learned would be offered with themes from the Celtic tradition? It sounded like something we would really love. We heard it would be a simple service, offered with long periods of silence, with candles, prayers and quiet music, and with the holy communion, of course.
Sign us up!
We started attending from the beginning and have not missed a single time since it began, I don't think. We love it. It has become a really important part of our weekly routine.
We didn't know at the time we began attending the contemplative service in June that All Saints would eventually show itself to be the village from that image God had given me in February. But it has.
It began with the decision to attend a newcomer's class in late August -- one evening spent getting to know some members of the church and a bit more about what was happening there. We shared during the introduction time that we were just exploring things, that we loved the contemplative service and Father Rob, the rector, but that we weren't episcopalians and had never -- either of us -- belonged to a denomination, and we had no idea what that would even look like or mean.
That evening, we got to talking with two of the ladies in the group, and one of them mentioned that Father Stephen, one of the assistant rectors at the church, was going to teach a catechumenate class starting in September. A catechumenate class? What in the world was that? We learned it would be a 9-month class teaching an overview of the Scriptures, church history, and the tradition of the episcopal faith. It would culminate, we learned, at Easter with a visit from the bishop and the opportunity to be confirmed in the episcopal church.
This sounded like a great next step for us. Nine months was a long time to take in the teachings of the church and learn specifically about the episcopal denomination, especially since I couldn't imagine converting to a denomination of Christianity lightly at all. I wanted to understand what that meant.
So we decided to take Father Stephen's class, and we waited with eager anticipation for the class to begin in September.
In the meantime, we heard about something called the Rector's Forum. It was a teaching time between services on Sunday morning, led by the rector, Father Rob, whom we have come to truly admire and enjoy. He's a gifted teacher, a holy man, and someone who cares deeply about the process of spiritual formation (as do I!).
We learned Father Rob would be teaching a series on spiritual direction and sacred rhythms on Sundays for the Rector's Forum starting in September, too, and it was not a difficult decision for us to start attending that too. (Not a difficult decision? We practically ran to the class!)
And slowly but surely, with each new step we've taken, we have felt drawn further and further in to this church.
Every time we go, people walk up to us and introduce themselves. They're incredibly friendly and warm.
When we attend the Rector's Forum and watch people trickle in, it's clear this is a church of people who have known each other forever -- and truly care for one another. When we attend Father Stephen's class on Wednesday nights, it's clear this is a place of great affection. I can't help but smile when Father Stephen calls on people by name when they raise their hands to ask a question.
Every once in a while over the last two months, Kirk would ask me, Do you think this is the village? I didn't know. I kept telling him I needed to ask God that question. But for some reason, I kept putting it off. I'm not sure why.
But then something happened.
Kirk started saying some really unusual things. Really beautiful, moving things. Things I had never heard him express about a church or a community of people before. Things that I knew were very intimate admissions of his heart to God and to me.
It was astounding and marvelous and totally, utterly beautiful.
Thats when I knew it was time to ask God if this was the village.
When I saw my spiritual director, Elaine, for a session last month, that's one of the questions I brought. I revisited with her the image of the village, and she invited me to bring the question to God.
God, is this the village?
I couldn't help but smile. Each person in that church so unique, each with a different story. Each person offering their own perspective and talents. Old men with wizened beards. Women with difficult struggles not everyone sees but you would see if you really looked at them. Children running and playing, known by all the community.
These were people I wanted to know. This was a place where I wanted to give as well as receive. This was a place Kirk and I wanted to live together.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
This is our village. And we are so thankful to have entered into it. It will change our life, I think, living among these precious people and encountering Christ there among us.