Wanda Stride

Peace in the valley…

Peace in the valley…

Peace in the valley…

Fog is an appropriate metaphor for these times. As I drove into Chalk River two weeks ago for the September meeting of Upper Valley Presbytery, the road was enveloped in fog. Some people had driven two hours in that fog to get to the church meeting.
It’s what we do, right? No matter what mystery lies ahead, we trust that when we arrive there will be warm drinks, fresh baking and welcoming smiles to greet us. Some mused that the fog seemed comforting, like an earthy hug.
Many of you know that my father died just over a week ago. After that, we had no idea what was in store for us as a family. We welcomed the fog that kept us functioning only in the moment, cherishing time together… 
My dad may have been 94, but he was still a larger than life figure in our lives. He loved people, he loved to talk, he loved to reminisce, he loved to tour around Ontario and see the leaves. He loved life.
It’s a huge loss for us, but he also gave us an unexpected gift. I say unexpected, because it wasn’t something we thought we were missing. When we planned the funeral, my mother was adamant the service would be at Woodville United Church – “Our church” – she said.
The gift we received, was our church. 
The support at the time of the service was everything you could long for – sympathetic hugs and respect, tiny sandwiches and great big brownies, endless cups of coffee, and a place to visit. Cards and emails and phone calls from friends and congregations across the conference…
Last Sunday my mother and I went to morning service. I couldn’t preach so soon, but we wanted to attend. After the benediction, my mother was enveloped by a group of supportive women, handing her cards, hugs, asking after her health.
This is our church. This much we know.
There will be changes over the next year across our country – and we will have to spend time planning to transition to a new system, all the while wondering if General Council will even affirm the “yes” that pastoral charges and presbyteries gave to the remits. 
With all the unknowns, we can affirm that deep, abiding presence of God-in-community. Blessed are those who mourn, indeed. We need to mourn what we are leaving behind, our losses, but we need to remember what we will never lose. 
We have each other.
We have a loving Creator who extends grace through all of us, seeking us out when we are lost, soothing our broken hearts and infusing us with healing love.
We are not alone, even when the fog obscures the future. God is with us. God is with this United Church of Canada.

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