Today was our pastor’s last day at our church. I have been attending a United Methodist Church for the last three months. She has been pastoring this church for the last six years! Near the end of the service, we watched a video that interviewed various church members, who answered trivia questions about the pastor: What is her favorite sports team? What is her favorite sweet? Who is the love of her life? Which song would she like to be played at her funeral? What is her favorite saying (her saying, that is)? They also addressed the question of how she influenced them spiritually.
Before we watched the video, someone got up and told a story about
her trying to get used to the ways and sayings of the church when she
Some things were new to me. Some things I knew, or at least could
envision. I knew that the pastor loves chocolate chip cookies, and that
she is a huge fan of Richard Rohr. The story that the one person told
was about how she had to get used to how the church was during the
summer time. At the church where she was previously, summer services
were well-attended. At our church, however, the pews are not packed
during the summer, and people take some “me time.” I have noticed that
myself, on some level: I would say that the church is fairly
well-attended during the summer (maybe that’s because I’m used to even
smaller churches!), but people do feel free to take Sundays off, at
times. And these are pillars of the church, who have attended for
decades! I can meet someone, and not see that person for weeks! But
the person still comes back, because that is home.
I felt that I got to know the pastor, on some level. I read her
blog. I attended Sunday School for a little over a month (and I still
want to write a post about last week’s class, which was the last one for
that unit!). I’ve heard some of her sermons. And she treated me to
How has she influenced me spiritually? Well, I do now subscribe to
Richard Rohr’s daily e-mail. That has been an interesting experience. I
would say that, on some level, I was prepared for this experience even
before I attended this United Methodist Church. When I was living in
upstate New York, which was before I moved to Washington, I read some
books about Ignatian spirituality, mysticism, Julian of Norwich, and
Thomas Merton, so it was not as if I was entering into territory that
was unfamiliar to me when I started reading Richard Rohr. There are
parts of this thought-system that resonate with me: using one’s
weaknesses as an opportunity to grow closer to God, for example.
Contemplation makes sense to me, but I do not practice it.
There are aspects of Rohr’s thought that strike me as panentheistic,
or that seem to regard humans as good, or as having good within them
(and I hope that I am characterizing Rohr’s thought correctly). I am
not sure if this resonates with me entirely: I would like to believe
that God is in me, that the world somehow manifests Christ or is held
together in him, that God is working on me even when I do not feel it,
and that there is good within me that I can bring forth or draw on. On
some level, maybe I do believe those things. But there is just so much
that is bad about the world, and about me. Original sin is a concept
that resonates with me, not so much because I am settled in believing
that there was a historical Adam and Eve who screwed everything up for
themselves and the rest of us, but rather because I notice a lot of crap
within myself. I see myself as a sinner saved by grace; maybe Rohr
does, too. In any case, I will still read Rohr. Even if there are some
things that he says that seem strange or foreign to me, I at least do
learn something from his e-mails about the history of Christian thought.
The pastor also told me about the show Orphan Black, which
she may like because of her background in genetics. My Mom, step-Dad,
and I have been enjoying that show. I’m looking forward to season 3
coming out on DVD!
The pastor’s sermon this morning was about how Paul believed that
God’s grace was made manifest in the love and spiritual fruit of his
congregations. That, she said, confirmed to Paul the truth of the
Gospel. Maybe so, on some level. Paul already had enough that
confirmed to him the truth of the Gospel—-his own experience of the
resurrected Jesus. Yet, I do believe that Paul liked to see the Gospel
working in people’s lives, that this reinforced to him its truth. The
thing is, he did not always see that, as we can observe in the case of I
Corinthians, for the Corinthian church had strife, class divisions, and
even sexual immorality. If the Gospel works, why was God not
transforming the Corinthians? Maybe they needed to hear about the
implications of the Gospel. Maybe Paul’s expectation was that, because
they were saved and had God’s Holy Spirit, they would respond favorably
and repentantly to what Paul had to say.
I’ll stop here.