The plan for the weekend was for my family to return to the church I first served in rural southwestern Minnesota. They were celebrating the 150 year anniversary of the congregation. Just a few years ago, when MPC celebrated Memorial’s 50 year Jubilee it meant so many clergy attended the event, so when we got the invitation we made plans to attend.
We left the church seven years and some change ago. My hair was a bit longer. We had one less kid. Our oldest was 3 and our middle kid just turned 1. This was the first time we’ve gone back since we left. Yet this is a special place to my family.
Pilgrimage, returning to where we have been, is a reminder of how far we’ve come and how a place shaped who you are today.
This pilgrimage gave me the gifts of returning to the first church I served and where two of our kids were baptized. As we walked up, we were given the gifts of being welcomed with open arms and called by name. Our kids were given the gift of being remembered. They were told stories about a place only remember by pictures.
I was struck that seven years had gone by, yet these people were still being the church to my kids. Seven years later they were still keeping the promises made at the kids’ baptisms.
Michael Lindvall imagines the church always in motion, perhaps always on pilgrimage. He writes, “The church is not a club for those who have arrived, spiritually speaking. Rather it is a fellowship of spiritual traveling companions who are still very much on the way. We follow Jesus together, and we invariably do so less than perfectly.”
Perhaps the most important gift I was given that day was being reminded that pastors come and go, but the church continues because it’s Christ’s church.
When different pastors had the chance to tell stories. The stories we told were of the members and the dedicated leaders who continue to be the church no matter what else is going on at church or in the world.
Each of us brought different gifts that activated different parts of the church, but the truth is those latent gifts were always there and continue to be there. In fact many of those same folks were hard at work serving and sharing of themselves in celebration of 150 years of ministry.
What a gift to go back to the place and people who not only helped me to become the person and pastor I am today, but who first taught my kids how to be the church.