To Tommy

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The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

-Isaiah 40

At the end of May, I received saddening news that the priest, whom we loved, was being let go.

And when I say let go, I mean he was completely rejected and fired by the board of the church which he had led for less than a year.

I received this news a few days after I had received news that I was also being let go by the board on which I served, also for less than a  year.

The church board was very candid and transparent with their decision, and it appears they did not approve of the priest’s MLA reference citation notes, and he was gone faster than than the ink had time to dry; or, perhaps, than the email was sent.

The thing is, we weren’t even members of Tommy’s church. Yet. We were somewhere else at the time, which we had decided to attend when we first moved to this area as a placemarker of sorts. It wasn’t a bad church by any means…but it wasn’t our church. But, naturally, we got involved with teaching Sunday school for the kids and so we stayed long enough to finish out the classroom year.

We were planning on joining the church in which Tommy was the priest once our teaching obligation was over.

Joining a new church is a daunting task.

Because you are looking for a family. And that can be scary to seek out, hesitant to attend and nervous to join. Sometimes it is hard to say what it is you are looking for, exactly. I know we can say there are things very specifically we look for in a church; but there are also intangibles that will make the church a home.

Learning is very important to us. If we are not learning and growing in a church, then we feel like potted plants, to be rather poetic about it. And if we are anything, we are not potted plants. We are vessels of unquenchable thirst for understanding God and everything He made, and that is our focus. So if we are potted plants in a church, then maybe that isn’t our church.

I also have high regard for safety and order, which, I know, seems like an odd request for a church. But there have been situations when those two items have not been available, and I realized quite acutely how vital they were for a church. If I do not feel my children are safe in the children’s church due to lack of competent supervision, that isn’t our home.  If the pastor has no concept of church order through which to lead, then that isn’t our church home, either.

And at this point in our lives, we had been in places which have left enough bad memories of what some people think church is…I didn’t know if we would ever find a safe church, again.

When we found Tommy’s parish, it was actually through a choir in which the kids were involved. The music director is a lovely, gentle woman who has a completely different style of teaching than my (rather) militant style of teaching; and yet, the kids all memorized their songs, plus some ukulele chords, and the kids have performed in their Christmas, Easter and sundry services flawlessly.

Tommy led those services, and in him I saw the same love and grace of leading.

He was a gentle soul who made intelligent jokes, and seemed to have the most welcoming smile on his face whenever I saw him. My oldest, Nova, was in a youth group after choir and Tommy led her group with his trusty dog, Joshua, by his side.

I was overwhelmed with how loving and accepting the leadership was in his church, and when we considered becoming parishioners there, it felt like…relief.

We have finally found a safe church home for our family.

And just like that, he was let go.

I am glad to say that we were actually led to the sister church, which is smaller…but just as friendly, loving and safe. It did take a few deep breaths to accept that we were making a big step into a new home, but we had hands around to help us walk slowly, and safely, into the sanctuary with them.

But, where was Tommy?

Thanks to social media, I was able to see him take a few months of time off. He traveled with Joshua and met old friends. He helped rebuild after the floods in Louisiana and he comforted families who lost everything. It was good to see him out and doing what he loved most: loving others.

So, this morning, I was overwhelmed with love to see him announce his first service in his new parish. I am only sorry to say it is very, very far away.

My note to Tommy is this:

Although your stay on our island was brief, I am so glad you were here.

You gave me hope that pastors were still as kind, thoughtful, wise, funny and loving as I hoped they would be.

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