Some of Our Children Gathering For Church-Happy To Be In God’s House
The children hurried in to the church. They were early and after greeting us warmly asked me “Pastor, can you come into the room with us?” “The room” is their Sunday School room and as we had a little time, I went. Each one grabbed her favorite item,tambourine included, and started singing: “Jesus Loves Me”. I sang with them and told them they were right,Jesus did love them very much and I do too! They asked help to start little art projects and settled down freeing me to vest. Well, almost. Donnie ran up to me and hugged me with her usual joy, she told me about a fall she had and asked prayers for herself and her husband who was recently hospitalized. Another mother arrived with her family and we talked quietly about her grief for a hospitalized and seriously ill young adult child. She asked me to meet with the family after church and join them at the bedside later. Tania arrived smiling broadly and thanked Pastor Judy B and me for shepherding her all day Friday. We signed her out of the psychiatric hospital where she had spent over ten days “getting herself back”, as she said, with the help of medications. We were with her until, surmounting many problems almost miraculously, she got an apartment, with her electricity turned on and a bed top sleep on. She wanted to tell the church that God did not abandon her and will not abandon them. Nancy came with the baby we baptized now walking and everyone was so glad to see her. Our member Judy Alves, a retired lawyer arrived with the hot meal and got it ready for serving after church. Dr. Joe Cudjoe helped her, and his wife Pearl and I talked about her Junior class. Some of our old friends returned today. Hank Tessandori began the hymn as we vested. The 40 or so chairs were soon filled and we were ready to begin, Several new homeless people joined us and were warmly welcomed.
The sacrament of the church, the people of God, prepared to meet the sacrament of Christ with us, the body of Christ becoming the body of Christ. They came in joy and sorrow, in exhaustion and in expectation. And we, the priests, the pastors, the women God has called for this job were once again humbled beyond words and in awe of Christ with us. The songs were sung with enthusiasm. The prayers were said and the readings were proclaimed. Our High School senior, Natasha, has become an excellent lector. The homily was given with time for the people to join in. Mr. Gary, our elder, had lost a son to violence last week and shared how his faith was what got him through this. For him, and for Tania and Tim and Nate who spoke Christ is not only their shepherd king who showed us how to serve one another, but a best friend who is always there with and for them. Our time of intercession included prayers that wrenched from the hearts of those who were hurting and sprang from the lips of the faithful. Our hearts stirred as our six year old Joelle prayed fervently for a sick relative and as Nate prayed “to God, our Mother and Father” for Mr. Gary’s grieving family and all of our sick members. Dr. Joe prayed for peace in the troubled places of the world and Hank prayed for the healing of the church.
As Pastor Judy B. prepared us for the Eucharist she welcomed each one there to the Table and explained the significance of the water, ourselves, in the wine-one with Christ. Once again as we served communion we were in awe of the transformation of ourselves and our people through and into the body and blood of Christ in service to one another and the world. I cannot describe the holiness of these moments, experienced at each Eucharist. And the people sang with all their hearts, “Thank you , God, thank you God, we just want to than you God. Eucharist!
After the final hymn we asked our teens Keeron and Keeondra and also Robert an older gentleman to stand for a birthday blessing and to receive gifts from the congregation. Shy but delighted they beamed as we sang “May the good Lord bless you…”.
Then the church was transformed into a dining room and our second eucharistic meal was served and gratefully received.
As the meal was served about ten other homeless and hungry individuals joined us. And here we had the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We would not have had enough food for the last ten people but Judy Alves’ husband, Jim Pelstring ,saw the need and hurried to buy enough to meet the need. All were fed and there were leftovers to take away!
I mingled with our members and with several more new guests arriving.
Old friends and new friends
After Sunday School I met with our dear family who faced the critical illness of their young member. We talked and shared feelings that had been pent up. We held hands and prayed. Later we joined them at the bedside in the hospital where seven family members gathered. All prayed as we anointed with blessed oil and prayed with this young person who rallied with this healing rite, and love. As there was already a baptism scheduled and missed because of illness, we all decided to go ahead and baptize then and there. All present took part. I cannot describe for you the peace and joy that supplanted the fear, anxiety and grief-words are not sufficient. The gloom was literally lifted like a dark cloud rising and light and joy replaced it. We sang, “Take Me To The River To Be Baptized” adding a stanza-“This one is the righteous and shall see God!” We ended with “Oh Happy Day” and much closeness and love.
Three Sacraments in one Sunday-Eucharist and eucharist; the healing rite and baptism. No, five, the sacrament of the church, the people of God, and the sacrament of love included. How blessed are we. How amazed and moved we are to be called to this priesthood, the priesthood of all believers. How thankful Judy B and I are for the privilege of serving God’s holy people. Thanks be to God! Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community,
Fort Myers, Florida