Just one more Sunday…
This coming Sunday is our family’s final Sunday at the church we have been a part of for five years.
One more Sunday of bundling kids and various-kid-related-ephemera into the car and driving nearly an hour across Sydney in an effort to make the 10:30am start of service. One more Sunday of arriving in the car park and ejecting eager out, hastily deciding which parent will take which kid (or which kid will take which parent) into the building. One more Sunday of greeting the greeters at the door, whose smiles, arms, questions stretch out to welcome us warm in.
One more Sunday to stand amongst these faithful ones who have become family, wishing with all our might we could convey how joyful/sad we are at going, and how grateful, how thankful, for all the Lord has given us in this space, which has been our spiritual landing place.
Just how does one do this? How does one leave a church, when it’s so much more than a building? When it has become a home?
And the reasons for leaving are reasonable, and good. We no longer live ‘locally’ and though large parts of our hearts may be up in the Northern tree-ensconced suburbs midweek, our bodies are in the Inner-West. And we are physical beings. Being in community means body as well as mind, and spirit. And we are not so much leaving, as going elsewhere, to another sub-section of the body of Christ. We are joining a church in the city centre, a mere 20 minute drive away, a bevy of believers we are very excited about getting to know, of learning from, of giving to.
But the goodness of the new does not cancel out the grief, of having one’s limbs cut, in the Sunday-Sunday sense.
How it all began
We first found our church, SG, five long-short years ago. I say found because we never intended to come here, not in the pre-meditated, church-shopping sort of way. We’d exited Melbourne a few months earlier, leaving behind a cold, hard year, some of the baggage of which we still dragged behind us, struggling to shed, and we weren’t yet settled anywhere else.
That first morning we meant to try a church a few suburbs away, but, not surprisingly, we were late. SG happened to be down the road from where we’d just moved in. Dr M’s family were attending, and loving it. But none of this cemented our decision. We found SG in the way one finds a beautiful, irradescent shell on a stretch of coastline, we tripped over it, or ran into it. Or more correctly it found us. And, in the lost-and-found sense, we were ourselves found.
It’s hard to define what draws one to a church. There are the obvious discernible factors that impacted our decision to stay: a church that preached the Gospel, a church that valued solid biblical teaching, a church that had the Saviour front and centre. And the less discernible, but strongly felt. The experience of standing in the centre of a warm circle, like when you find a patch of sun in the middle of a cold, overcast day, and the heat starts to spread from limb to limb, until before long, you are warm all over. Thawed out. Lit up. The feeling of coming home.
This past Sunday our daughter E was tired, and clingy. On occassions like these I’ve learnt not to push. She came into the worship with me while Dr M settled W into creche. Amongst the arms raised up and outward in praise she gestured for me to lift her up. To be held. She doesn’t do this so often anymore, and sometimes, I admit, I find it a little annoying, tiring. But not on this past Sunday. I too wanted to hold her close.
Because as I stood there, in the middle of it all, I remembered. How we had first arrived with her still in my belly, our precious secret. How she grew, as we grew, in those first halcyon months in this new community of blessing. How she was born, and we carried her, into that congregation who welcomed her, and spoke fondly of her deep, probing blue eyes. And how, less than two years later, another baby came to us, and we brought him into that space. And finally a third. All three children –miracle babies–babies the odds were against, born into that time of blessing.
New birth, taking baby steps, growth. Those words are not just applicable to our offspring. Dr M and I have been believers for many years, but sometimes one walks in valleys, and sometimes on hilltops. We came from the valley, we came to a hilltop. And in the five years since there have been both, but our anchors have been aligned amongst the storm, in many ways due to the arms of those around us.
And in case it sounds like I credit the church solely with this, I don’t mean to. No. The Lord is Lord of all. But yes, I feel he brought us here, to SG, for healing, for refreshment, for bambi-legs to become stronger, for baby-steps to become more confident. There are many ways to grow.
And so, as we prepare to leave, I just want to say Thankyou. Thankyou to all those at SG who encouraged us, fed us, metaphorically and physically, prayed for us, taught us, welcomed us into your homes, shared your hearts with us. Those we have wept with, and shared grief, and sickness, and trial alongside. And those we have laughed with, and worn funny hats with, and joked with across tables of food.
We love you all.
Because of His Sovereign Grace.
So, how does one leave one’s home, one’s church? How do we leave?
And knowing this is not the end, but only the beginning.