I’ve spent the past couple of days in Durham, gathering with a most dynamic group of Christian leaders to imagine how the institutions we lead might flourish with God’s abundant life. Called A Convocation of Christian Leaders, this group of pastors, denominational leaders, and seminary professors and administrators convened by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School represents those from three separate cohorts, joining together for an experience that has been equal-parts reunion and renewal. 

We began our time together on Tuesday remembering where each of us were when our year-long cohort first began. I was in Cohort #2, and our journey stretched from September 2016 – September 2017, which means that they journeyed with me through my last very-pregnant days with Silas and his birth, the calling of new staff, our Special Committee’s discernment process which resulted in the June 2017 announcement detailing in part the demolition of Buildings B & C and the closure of our Children’s Center, and all that unfolded in its aftermath… not to mention the 2016 election and other culturally-significant moments peppered throughout those 13 months. 

Needless to say, I was overcome by remembering that season in my life, our church’s life, and our country’s life. I felt a wave of familiar disorientation, recalling those months where it felt like every corner of my living had been upended and disrupted. The fear, the grief, the joy, the heaviness, the labor, the possibility … all flooded back in a jumble of emotions. 

One gift of sharing our church’s journey with these colleagues in ministry spread throughout the country is that they remembered it — and remembered you! They were curious to hear how things were going, whether or not we had finished the work, how things around the church felt now. They had been praying for us, watching hopefully as the Spirit moved in our midst. And so I rejoiced in reporting back that the project is nearly complete, that we have broadened and deepened the shape of our life together, and that we open to this next season with deep gladness and a horizon of possibility for what God will do.

As our time wrapped up with worship today, we read together the words of Isaiah 43: 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be
with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 

For I am the Lord your God.

In a swirl of memory — of what God has done in these waters through which we’ve passed, of our most meaningful baptism remembrances on Sunday, of how memory has linked us to God, to each other, to our shared imagination, to our future — I called you by name, dear church, and gave great thanks!

Together in God’s work of Love,
Pastor Emily


Ps- As you who were here on Sunday heard, we arrived to find water intrusion in the back Sanctuary organ chamber … and on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, no less! (Irony duly noted here!) We reached out to Blum immediately, and they have been responsive and helpful, taking the lead on next steps in a process to restore our organ back to our use. We are still in the information-gathering phase of this new wrinkle, but hope to have a fuller update to you at our Quarterly Church Conference on January 26.

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