Thursday, May 03, 2007

God's Grace

Here's the thing:

When I was drawn to join Grace church a year and a half ago, I didn't know why. I didn't understand what my role was going to be at the church, or why God was calling me to become a member. In fact, I kept putting off sending in the membership card. I was a little surprised at the casual attitude Grace had towards membership. There were no classes. No prerequisite meeting with the priest. No discussion group or new member orientation. All we had to do was sign our name to a card and put it in the offering plate on Sunday.

And still, I held back. I didn't think Grace was really my church. Yes, I suppose I believed that God had brought me there, but in the back of my mind, it was just a stopover on the way to my real church (whatever that was).

But one day, a couple of months after I started to attend, my rector, Bob, happened to ask if I had sent in the card. (Why won't he stop asking me?!?!)

I'll do it, I thought. And I did. But not before meeting with Bob and telling him all the things I didn't like about his church. I am only agreeing to stay, I said, out of obedience to God.


A few weeks later, I heard that we were in negotiations with another downtown church to discuss a merger and it was then that I began to get a glimpse of the edge of Christ's garment. I caught a little hint of the big picture.

I caught a glimpse of Grace.

In my heart, I was convinced that God was calling the members of Church of the Messiah, just like he had called me. I knew they didn't really understand why, any more than I did. But somehow, I just believed that they were being drawn to this behemoth of a church for a reason.

And as I got to know their rector, I began to believe that he, too, played some significant part in God's plan for Grace church.

There was grief for the Messiah folks. Loss. Sadness. Frustration. But little by little, just as there had been for me, I saw them beginning to get little glimpses of God's plans for them. I saw them begin to understand what they were doing in this strange land. And more and more, I felt that their priest was part of it too. He complimented our own rector so well. Their skills meshed together like two pieces of a bigger puzzle. It was clear that together, they could do so much more than either could as individuals. They were an amazing team.

But the agreement was that Fr. Rich would only stay a year. So a few months ago, he started looking for another gig. He went on interviews. He traveled around the country meeting with vestries. He collared deployment officers at conferences.

And all the while, I prayed. I prayed that he would be called to stay at Grace. That somehow we would work out the logistics, the financials, the details. With every trip, as he came that much closer to leaving, I became more and more convinced that he had to stay. We were his home. He is one of our priests. Please God, if it is your will that he stay, let him stay.

Last Sunday, Bob came to the Lectio Divina group. It was just three of us. We had a nice meeting, and as he was leaving, he turned to me and said,

"Rachel, I think your prayers have been answered."

I about wept for joy.

Which is what I always do when I catch a glimpse of the hem of Christ's garment... and see that in all the complexity of our lives, we are really just warps and wefts in his beautiful fabric.

At the service that morning, Bob announced to the congregation that Fr. Rich had agreed to stay on as a full time member of our clergy and he got a standing ovation.

Thank you, my Beloved.

I don't think we know what you have in mind for us, but I feel very sure that you have drawn us together for some reason. Guide us, O Lord, in the direction you would have us take. Teach us to be your ears and eyes and hands. Let us build the kingdom of your glory in our own back yard.

Help us bring Grace to Providence.

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