No, I do not subscribe to people having former lifetimes in other times in history.  Last evening I spent some time back in a part of my life that seems a distant memory even though it ended only sixteen months ago.  It is as if my forty years of ministry exists in a former lifetime.  There were feeling swirling around throughout the evening.

The fire happened three years ago.  I got a distressing phone call from the Rector of the Episcopal church, St. David’s, across the intersection from the church of which at that time I was the Senior Pastor.  I called Mary, who was willing and able to come over and stay with Mary Ann freeing me to rush over to check out our church and give Fr. Don some moral support.

It was arson.  The damage was extensive.  It was painful to see such an important place in the hearts and minds of so many people rendered uninhabitable in a few hours.  The vision of an elegant organ console charred and pipes melted, in a heap on the floor beneath the balcony is almost unbearable to those who have sung to that organ, whose spirits have been lifted by it for numbers of years.  I did not go in and see it.  I am remembering from the comments of some who did.

I had the privilege of being able on behalf of our congregation to offer support, a place to hold the first worship on the Sunday following the fire.  I will never forget that worship Service early in the afternoon, after our three morning services were concluded.  The church was packed with the members and friends of St. David’s Congregation.  There was a bond created that day that has since brought continuing joy to both our faith communities. The pattern of worship and the visual style of the worship rooms of the Lutheran and Episcopal traditions are virtually identical.  They felt at home in the worship space and we felt at home with the liturgy they used.

Last evening was three years later to the day in a journey that began in ashes and ended in celebration of an elegant and functional space for a faith community to live out their call to service.

When I arrived, the Nave was full.  There was space in a multipurpose room outfitted to allow us to participate fully in the service, though in a place far from the central worship space.  The feellings swirled.  There were some feelings at first, ones of which I am not proud, feelings that I was now relegated to a place far on the periphery of what had shared with my family a central place in my life.  I am grateful that my feelings moved away from feeling a loss of worth and value, to recognizing what the evening was about.  A community of people had taked a powerful hit and come out stronger that ever.  I got to touch their lives for a moment three years ago.  The night was about them and what had been and would be accomplished through them by the One we both serve.

Later in the evening there were some words of thanks that touched me deeply as Fr. Don acknowledged by name those people and faith communities who had supported them after the fire.

The contrast between the world in which I live now and the world in which I lived sixteen months ago is stark.  It was moving to be back in a liturgical setting with a large number of worshipers gathered, listening to and singing with a pipe organ, instrumentalists and choir producing powerful sounds, singing loudly in the midst of the congregation.  The moment was a poignant one for me as the forty years of ministry with its hopes and intentions and dreams broke into my awareness.  Current circumstances in my life and the needs of the congregation from which I retired have converged to provide a clear separation from my former life in the ministry.

What settled in my mind and heart last night is that my goal has been to impact those I served in a positive way as our lives intersected for a time. Whether or not it is remembered is quite secondary.  My hope is that my ministry had a positive effect on most of those I served in the three parishes and the high school these last four decades.

Now my goal is to make a difference for good in the life of someone I love deeply, even though I don’t always show that love as clearly as I should.  So that I could attend St. David’s new building dedication last night I arranged for a person from Home Instead an agency that provides people trained to do Companion Care.  It will cost between $60 and $70 for that care for Mary Ann, but I felt I needed to be there for my own sake and to provide a formal presence for my former parish. Needless to say, it is not feasible to use agency care very often.  I am grateful to have an income at all in this economy, but a fixed income does demand care in how and when that income is used.

Mary Ann has been up for most of the day today.  Last night did not start out too well, but after a while, she settled and slept soundly.  She has had a reasonably good day.  She ate with only occasional help needed.  She napped in the morning for a couple of hours, but has been awake and sitting up most of the day.  There were two Volunteers here at different times.

She went to bed around 7pm (less than an hour from this writing), and she is awake now watching her beloved NCIS repeat episodes.  It would be a wonderful experience to have a sleep-filled night tonight.  Time will reveal whether or not that comes to be.

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