First, on Sunday we said goodbye to Albert, Maggie, Alex and Sammy Padilla. The Padillas have been a part of our church for about 5 years. Many of us know Maggie as that someone who either encouraged us to come and check out EPUMC or introduced us to others when we first arrived. Maggie contributed so much to our newfound vitality. On Sunday in worship, as we have done for others, we offered a prayer, experienced some real hugs and went through enough boxes of Kleenex that on Monday we had to order more.
Then on Tuesday, we were a polling station. When I stopped in to welcome and make sure the people working had what they needed, the head judge started talking to me. She shook my hand and said something like, “This place is the talk of city hall; it is the best location out there and we are so glad we are here.” I have heard expressions of gratitude from election judges before, but usually they are a bit more subdued. I took it as a real compliment…I mean we didn’t even have any cookies sitting out for them for the primary election.
The Padillas’ goodbye and the election judges’ perception are both examples of what some people call hospitality and some call a friendly congregation and still others, Christian community. Those words are true enough, but they don’t quite get to the point of it, which is that you cannot fake the depth of either of these responses. The genuine, authentic expressions of these two different experiences tell us that whatever is going on around here at EPUMC matters. It is having an effect on the lives of people who gather here and in our community.
Some of this we can measure. When an election judge asked me about our garden, I said we had been raising over a ton of food for five years. Surprised, she asked “You mean a literal ton?” Of course, the answer is yes. Other things, like the bittersweet joy of having someone we love and care about so much that we are willing to risk having our hearts broken open to make sure we show up to say goodbye, are impossible to quantify.
In these and other relationships we at EPUMC are developing, nurturing and living out, we are sharing the presence of Jesus. What matters is not so much always naming something about our relationship with Christ (I didn’t say a word about Jesus to the election judge) but claiming this relationship when we experience it…
(I will not soon forget my goodbye with Maggie.)
Keep the Faith,