Church Life

Questions and Answers

Bemused commented on my post “Lord, Lord,” saying:
“…I find this UCC stuff Songbird brought up kind of distressing. Every once in a while I think about looking for a church–in general, I tend to think I get more from running by the lake on a Sunday morning than sitting in a church–and I’ve researched some UCC churches. I liked what I’ve read of their philosophy, but this latest development is rather off-putting.”

It’s off-putting to me, too, but I remind myself it’s a small group within the denomination as a whole. My own strong reaction probably comes from having been more engaged by questions than firm answers, and of course one of the questions that questioning may lead to is what’s the point of all this?!?!! How can arguing over language serve God? It’s as bad as spending too much time on the job worrying about how to raise the money to pay for your job!

But then something good will happen, as St. Casserole put it so beautifully in a post last weekend– something small in the world’s eyes, usually–and I will know in my deepest places that I am living a life with meaning and doing a work that has meaning, and I will remember again that residing in the questions, no matter how uncomfortable, is what makes it all meaningful.

After my parishioner, Pattie, died in April, we received a larger-than-usual number of memorial donations. It saddened me to think of them going to general use in our Memorial fund, the money the church dips into during the summer months to pay the bills. I suggested to the Church Council that we plant a memorial garden. Pattie loved gardening; she was a dab hand with petunias, a flower I understand to be finicky. Two gardening ladies in the church jumped right on this as soon as the money was designated. They put in a cutting garden along a fence out back. One of the ladies, Jane, knew Pattie for many years and worked with her in our nursery school. The other, Lelly, is a new member and hardly knew her at all. But Lelly, who is a good fifteen years older than Pattie will ever be, has for some reason taken on this garden with passion. When she heard that Pattie also loved birds, she planted a hummingbird bush and found a little bird house, which her husband hung on a fence post. Lelly planned the garden so that the plants will sweep around and up toward the bird house. Jane brought a beautiful big rock from her own garden to put in the front, and a brass plaque with Pattie’s name will be attached to it later this summer.

Caroline, who keeps the list of everyone who comes to church (and everyone who is there “in spirit”), lived across the street from Pattie for 35 years. This loss has been hard for her. We were talking about the birdhouse and the energy Lelly and Roberta have brought to this memorial garden, and Caroline’s eyes filled up with tears. “No one ever did anything for her when she was alive.”

I don’t know how much this garden will do for Pattie, or for her family, but I know it is healing for her friend. That is loving your neighbor. I still don’t know how an institution can encourage that except by speaking out on the broader issues. It’s up to you and me, and Roberta and Lelly, to do the rest. And perhaps that’s the answer to my questions, for tonight at least.

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