Lisa and I, in our BC days (before children), moved to Prince Edward Island (home of Anne of Green Gables) right after my Masters in New Testament Studies. I had accepted a job as Assistant to the Minister at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown. This was in 1983. We stayed for three years.
This is where I began serving the church in an official capacity and continued to do so for many years.
I remember my very first Sunday walking out of the minister’s study behind the lead minister to the organ and choir and congregation belting out the Doxology. There were 710 people there that morning, and I was overwhelmed with the immensity of it all.
My job there ended three years later under frustrating circumstances… my first real conflict with church leadership that affected my career. It’s a long story I don’t care to get into here. Just to say this: ministry there was a bittersweet experience, as I was to discover would be true for all ministry experiences thereafter.
This last week Lisa and I went back to visit friends there… friends who were ordained with me at that church. In fact, one of them is on staff there. So Lisa and I went to church Sunday morning. We left there 32 years ago! We ran into people we knew… people who were in my youth group, the secretary who is still the secretary, and others.
They were all so happy to see us. And we were happy to see them!
As I was sitting in that grand sanctuary with solid wood, the largest pipe organ in Atlantic Canada, and unbelievably beautiful stained glass windows (I posted a picture of this in our Facebook group), I was overcome with emotion.
Here’s what I was feeling:
I felt a lot of love for the people there. They helped me get started. I was just a kid. They were kind to me then. They were kind to me now.
I felt a huge wave of nostalgia. Oh my, the memories of those three years. This is where I had my first real spiritual crisis that dove me deep into my mystical journey that finally brought me to where I am today.
I felt overcome with gratitude for my past. Even though it is filled with a mixture of joy and pain, here I am today as happy and content as possible. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else to be different in case I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the wealth of all we enjoy now. I wouldn’t be “here” unless I traveled through “there”.
I felt the depths of mystery. I thought: Isn’t it strange that my journey would necessarily carry me away from the church for so long, and that I could circle around and now sit here unthreatened and untriggered, connected to everyone else here in fathomless ways, unified beyond our differing beliefs and diverse thoughts. Nothing can separate us from love. Only fear. And I can sit here fearlessly and deeply in love with all that is and all who are. I can come in and go out and find pasture wherever I find myself. The peace of this is beyond measure.
Right after the service was their annual meeting. I remember those horrible things. Everyone was rushing to get this done. Lisa and I said goodbye to a few old friends, got in our car, and started our journey back home.
We felt no judgment. No judgment given. No judgment received.
All is love.