Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Value of a Nickel

The church I serve is across the street from the city's poorest and most dangerous sections; the small part, as the previous pastor told us, gives the city it's bad reputation. Because of our location, we get phone calls once in awhile about people asking for help with groceries or with food. I have to guess that we get more calls then actually make it through to us; since we're not in the office on a consistent basis, I'm sure there are people who call and who don't leave a message. We do maintain a small food pantry that the church goes through every once in awhile to make sure the cans haven't expired, and there are a few folks who donate food to us to keep it stocked. While certainly not put to its best use, it serves a function in the community and there are people who need a bag or two of groceries to tie themselves over until their next pay check comes in who are able to find what they need.

One of my first experiences helping someone out came a few weeks ago. A woman called the church after our Sunday worship service and explained that she needed a gallon of milk for her kids, and explained the circumstances surrounding that need. I told her to come on down to the church and I'd be there with milk for her and her family. I dashed down the street to the Walgreens to get some in time for her arrival. By this time, most of the church folk had left except for my husband and I and some others who were cleaning up after coffee fellowship.

Several minutes later, she arrived bringing her daughter with her and I gave her the milk and showed her back to our small food pantry in case there was anything else she needed. This girl - probably about six or seven - was the most extroverted, loving, joyous, and friendly little girl I have ever seen. Everything in the church she approached with an inquisitive spirit -- "let's see this!" or "can I play with this?" or spontaneously giving hugs to those she saw. I have to say that I was quite enchanted by her spirit of love and acceptance to everyone and her exuberance for life.

While I was showing her around and sharing toys with her, she impulsively decided to share something with me. She was showing off her purse and I was admiring it and wanted to show me what was inside. She pulled out three quarters and one nickel. I admired how much money she had, and she smiled up at me and took a quarter and put it into my hand. "This is for you!" she exclaimed. I was taken aback and a more than a little unsure as to how to respond. After all, this kid I had barely met, whose family was facing difficult economic times, had just given me a significant amount of the money she had to her name. I shook my head and told her she should keep it, but she wouldn't hear of it. Finally, she allowed me to exchange the quarter she had given me for her nickel.

I continue to ponder this unusual exchange. Part of me feels like I should have kept the quarter she had so generously given - like the woman who places all she has into the Temple treasury in Mark 12:38-44, this girl had freely given away her money without question -- in this case to a complete stranger! A quarter, to this little girl, is a lot of money, but she still wanted to give it away to share what she had with me.

The nickel I kept currently sits on my dresser as a reminder of this exchange. It reminds me that even when we have little, we are called to give. It reminds me that a tithe is only a starting place and that we are called to go above and beyond to be good stewards of the resources that God has given us. It reminds me that all that we have and all that we are are to be used at God's disposal. It reminds me that even in these tough economic times, it's no excuse to cut God out of the equation.

I believe that this girl gave me more than just a nickel that day; she taught me a powerful lesson on what it means to give no matter where we are in life, no matter what our circumstances, and no matter how much we think we have that's of worth.

(image from http://http://www.coinfacts.com/nickels/jefferson_nickels/1971_No_S_Jefferson_Nickel_Obverse.jpg)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting Wet

Do any of you older and wiser and more experienced pastors have any advice to give a newbie on how to go about a pre-baptismal meeting? In your experience, what has been the line for pastoral concern vs. baptism as a act of worship in community, especially when it comes to issues of public/private baptism?

On a more basic level, what are the things you tend to cover when you schedule an appointment for folks to come in and talk about baptizing thier child? Materials/handouts you have available? Going over the liturgy and what it means?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Taste of Community

This semester, I'm going to get a little taste of what living in community is going to be like. Ben and I are going to be staying with our dear friends Matt and Farrah for one night each week when we stay in NJ for classes. It'll be great...but we're going to have to discipline ourselves in order to get work done, else we're just going to talk, talk, talk until the wee hours of the morning!

I know that I'm looking forward to what living in community is going to look like once we're all graduated and situated together up in Massachusetts. I dream of a common prayer life together, meals together, conversations together, game nights together...and figuring out life together. In many ways, it will be like getting married all over again as we negotiate conflicts and figure out what works and what doesn't and how we live together.

But for now, I'll have to be content with these little bite-sized tastes before we dive into the full-sized meal!