730 days. 2 laps around the sun. Here we are, on the first day of the third year with Bethany Christian Church. (Nick says nobody says things like that, first day of the third year.) It’s been two years together and my mind is a swirl of thankfulness and wonder.
As I reflect on what it means to be in this community of faith, a memory from my ordination stands out. At the end of many Disciples ordinations, there is a moment where the ordinand stands up to say a word of thankfulness. My words were “thank you for letting me fail.” (This was the first of many times as an ordained minister where I said something utterly outrageous unintentionally. It’s also why I should script the majority of my public speaking.) What followed was an explanation of that odd sentence. I thanked them for taking risks with me, for me, and providing room to discover for myself what it was to go to seminary, work in church and love God’s people. Here I am again, wanting to use the same words.
In the two years we’ve been church together, we’ve had some very clear Kelli-fail moments. Remember when we sang that song on Pentecost that nobody knew with all the flats and sharps and nonsense? Don played to finish it out but the rest of us just looked at other in confusion. We laughed about it and I learned that Don must have veto right to hymns.
Or, here’s another one: Remember that time when my sermon wasn’t very strong and it was clear that we all knew it? (Choose your own memory, because it’s been a huge, continuing learning experience to preach every week.) Instead of pointing out the gaping holes, you were kind enough to share words of encouragement about something else in worship that worked well.
Or maybe this, how about the dozens of times I’ve asked why we do something a certain way and you took the time to explain the history of our congregation, ignoring the fact (that I now know) that why often implies a sense of judgment. The judgment wasn’t there and you trusted me even when it could have been perceived differently.
In these two years, because of your grace, I’ve become a better pastor, a fuller self, and an individual in love with God’s people. Because of your grace, people come into the doors of our church and find genuine welcome; just like Nick and I did the first time we visited, before you were even receiving papers (resumes) from perspective ministers. (We learned quickly there is no incognito at Bethany.) Because of your grace, we’ve seen glimpses of the realm of God here in Tulsa, in our sanctuary. Remember when Charles and Kelly let us be a part of the blessing of their wedding rings in the midst of worship? Remember when we needed to reintroduce a children’s moment in worship because there are children here every week?
Thank you, Bethany. I love you from the bottom of my heart. Here’s to more grace, more love and more memories.