Monday, January 4, 2010

Grace happens

I work for my church. Most people who belong to any church do work for it, but as of a couple of years ago, I have been employed by the parish where I have been a member for 20 years.

This new job came with challenges, not only professionally, but what I call parishioner-ally... learning how I might draw the line between me as a parishioner, seeking a place to connect with God—and me as professional, using my expertise as a writer/communicator to help others find a place to connect with God. (not to mention learning that my parish friends are now my employers....)

It has not been an easy transition from parishioner to professional, but on some days, like today, the two collide/connect in ways that show me full well that God is the best communicator of all.

We are an Episcopal church, and anyone who has grown up in one knows that we are challenged to tell people about ourselves. Everyone should already know, we think, that we are the frozen chosen, and if you don't, well, it is your loss. Our joke is that if we invite someone to church once every five years, we get credit.

In my life, I'll admit that I don't invite people to church very often. In my job, though, it is my mission to bring people into our midst. I am not always comfortable with this role as Episcopalian/Episcopal communicator. I have grown up with the Book of Common Prayer, but doesn't everybody know it by heart? If they don't, us cradle Episcopalians think they should.

One of my church friends says she loves it when God is obvious, shows us that we are not in control. Today — case in point:

A young woman came into our lobby today, seeking a labyrinth, which our parish installed in the last year. She'd read a newspaper article in our local paper today about another labyrinth in the area, and because she was a labyrinth walker, she was seeking others closer to her home than the one she had read about.

An internet search led her to our website (which I maintain, however imperfectly), which let her to us. (A confession: it took me four tries to find it on our site myself today. :)

It has been a cold day today, and we are in the midst of construction (I know, I always write a long story)... so I offered to don my coat and take her to our labyrinth, now secluded behind construction and shrubbery.

On our short walk, I learned that she and I had once shared the same Georgia town (me 30 years ago, she not that long ago) and a profession — writing/editing and the like. She seemed stunned that I knew her former city, her profession, and as I questioned her, I found as a single mom she had not been well welcomed at some area churches here. I will tell you that this broke my heart. Twenty years ago and new to our city, I came to our church, and though I was not a single mom, I didn't feel welcomed, either.

Funny now, but it is my home.

I invited her to walk our labyrinth privately, then to return to the lobby, where I would be waiting. Awhile later she came, and I took her to see our children's chapels and gave her information about who we are,and what we are about, so she can decide if she'd like to come back. (I do confess, knowing she is an editor, to cringing about the fact that our most recent monthly newsletter has TYPOs!:)

"I never knew you were here," she said upon leaving.

"I hope you will come back," I said. And I have been thinking her since, how today, she was in search of warmth she hoped a labyrinth would bring on a frigid day — and though she had walked one often, she had not done so in five years — and somehow by Grace she found it.  I know she was searching for more, too. And I hope by Grace, she has found that as well.