The assistance started immediately. Edith’s unexpected paralysis was a total life change for the Carters. They had to reimagine every moment of their days, every rhythm they’d grown accustomed to, every way they tended their relationships and spaces. How would they get around? Would their house be sufficient for her needs? What would caregiving look like in such a situation?

Lost in the trauma, it was Jim and Edith’s Sunday School class that met them in the midst of it all — mowing their grass, making their grocery runs, lovingly folding together ingredients to make a warm casserole to enjoy, dropping by with cards and flowers and the simple gift of their presence, rearranging the shape of their class meetings to foster an opportunity to graft Jim and Edith back in via Skype. 

This holy bunch, as Jim and Edith’s children just told me while we planned Jim’s funeral service yesterday, gave life to their parents time and time again these last years. So 17 days before his passing when Jim’s devastating cancer diagnosis laid bare what these remaining weeks would look like, again it was these precious friends — Benny and Mary Ann, Dave, Joe, and the list goes on — who journeyed with Jim in his last days as they’d journeyed with him in all the days. They were present, and in that presence, the long love they’d shared became the balm spread upon raw grief all around. 

You take this particular story of a group of people covenanting to share life together, and look around — for it echoes over and over all around our church!
… The group of young adults who share stories of expectancy, struggles about sick parents or hardships at work, fears about the overheated climate of our country and our world. 
… The early risers who look together for altars in this world, ways that God breaks into everyday spaces if we only are looking.
… The longtime friends, recently dormant as a group but now gathering again with renewed energy to deepen their awareness about the racial injustice all around us. 
… The large group who bear the name ‘conversations’, holding up in highest value the joy of brave space to share, to talk, to continue that conversation between Sundays in tangible ways.
… The biweekly nighttime gathering and the Sunday morning gatherings — all of women, although one has recently made an exception! — whose lives are knit together in profoundly significant ways.
… The intentionally intergenerational, cross-seasonal group whose favorite moments are shared in loud love around a table in one’s home.

I could go on and on and on! For what these folks have found, what Jim and Edith and their class found, is the deep gladness that emerges from sustained, steady relationships with one another that stretch across time and space, and background, and difference, and health of mind, body, and spirit. United in their love for God and one another, walking together in a life of discipleship, and living vulnerably and honestly through all the changing seasons of life, these small groups and Sunday School classes (choose your terminology) are precisely where God continues to show up in ways that change everything.

I know it goes without saying, but if you haven’t yet found your way into a small group or class, or if your engagement has lapsed with time and, well, life, I invite you to gently, tenderly, hopefully lean back in. 

Together in God’s work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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