Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Unexpected Dinner Guest

Every year the local collection of the United Methodist Church congregations meets at GC College.  We get an annual visit from our former pastor, Gary Bailey.  I don't want to call him our old pastor although he is showing some gray,  I'd rather call him an old friend.

At our former house (now 5 years ago) we drove past about 5 churches, out of town and past another 2 churches to attend Brush Run UMC.  "The friendly church by the side of the road".  Every sunday they have a stand and greet time.  From what I've seen at most churches these are a time to stand spin 360-degrees and shake hands with anyone your arm can reach.  You may also be permitted 2 steps.  At Brush Run this is more of a sport.  Nearly everyone leaves their pews and crowds the aisles with hugs, conversation, and laughter.  If goes generally 5-15 minutes; if not halted it would go all day.

Our first sunday there we met probably all of the 80ish ppl in attendance and most of them knew our names when we returned next week.  I think it was our second sunday attending that we were invited to the hot dog shop for breakfast.  We quickly made friends in the church.  You couldn't help it.  Brush Run is also unique in that your friendships are not limited to your age range, or career or role within the church.  It is a sticky friendship like family.  You find yourself talking to these folks and liking them.

So last night was the Annual Conference which had allowed us for the almost surprise visit from Gary.  At Brush Run our family immediately connected with the Bailey family.  There was nearly some age overlap but there was more a love of games, laughter, and learning that bound our families.

Coming out of such a comfortable and welcoming spiritual family made adjusting to churches in GC tough.  Unfortunately not all are welcoming.  GC is a town with deep roots and it makes it hard for implants to find soil.  Some were programmed to welcome (delegated greeters) which always comes across as insincere; and it is.  Some were cold since people were fairly occupied within their own circles.  I cannot blame them, I can just feel left out.  It took some time for us to lower our expectations and we settled where we had some friends through a play group with other kids & mothers.

Last night was our annual dinner.  It was good to catch up, reflect back and remember that there are somethings that the current denominational battles over litigation and polity will not tarnish.  That every church is local.  In some way, a very real and significant way, the parts are greater than the whole.

In our friends the richness of life is proved to us by what we have gained; in the faces in the street the richness of life is proved to us by the hint of what we have lost.  And this feeling for strange faces and strange lives, when it is felt keenly by a young man, almost always expresses itself in a desire after a kind of vagabond beneficence, a desire to go through the world scattering goodness like a capricious god.  It is desired that mankind should hunt in vain for its best friend as it would hunt for a criminal; that he should be an anonymous Saviour, an unrecorded Christ.  -GK Chesterton

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