Last year in one of my blog posts, I mentioned an online post entitled, “Collect Moments, Not Things. You’ll Have No Regrets When You Get Old.” During my comments at the “Sharing Table” banquet a couple of Saturday’s ago, I revisited a few of the memorable and treasured moments shared with many of the members and friends of First Pres Valpo over the last 27 years. Those moments, whether they were stories of life on the farm shared in the wee hours while on PADS duty, or the satisfaction that comes from working with others on a piece of music or to accomplish the “mission of the day” are the stuff of memories that stick with me and will stand the test of time.
There’s another class of moments I’ll refer to here as “turning points.” Sometimes turning points are obvious in the moment to everyone concerned, but at other times they may not be as easy to see until time has passed.
In my own life, I think of the day I loaded up my car and hugged my Mom and Dad before heading down our driveway to start college, or the day four or so years later when I boarded a plane on the way to starting my first engineering job in a part of the country which for me was totally new and unexplored. As a 22-year old, it seemed so easy and natural to negotiate my path through these life transitions, perhaps in part because I was able to convince myself that I was only going to give it a try, that it wasn’t a big deal or it was only temporary and not really a major “turning point.” In retrospect, I should have known “in the moment” that driving away from the farm down that gravel driveway was, indeed, a huge turning point in my life.
There are also turning points in the life of churches. Some might point to the manner by which our church managed its way through the darkest days of the pandemic as being a turning point for our congregation. For some, the church erred on the side of being too cautious, and for others not cautious enough. For me, I see these last three years as a time of immense challenges for our congregation; especially for those in leadership roles. But they were also years during which we came together in many new and different ways, but always in the spirit of loving God and each other and to work hard to prayerfully confront the new realities of the day.
It seems to me that the “Sharing Table” project has the potential to be a turning point for our congregation; a moment that we might someday recognize and celebrate as being symbolic of us coming back together and moving forward post-pandemic.
As Lou Ann Karabel put in her blog a couple of weeks ago: “Some folks never came back once the COVID restrictions were lifted. But others learned to deal with the challenges we faced, choosing hope over despair, renewed fellowship over isolation. And it now seems that God has honored our gathering back together, by leading us down a clear path towards growing our church once again.”
“The key …….. is to Love God, Love our neighbors, and to the extent that we are able, to gather up all of the leftover “fragments,” so that nothing, and no one, may be lost.”