Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Culture Shock a la 2009

Each week as I write this blog, I focus mostly about the culture shock that ensues as the result of my call to plant a church in north central Pennsylvania. This call required my moving from Denver to Wellsboro/Mansfield, Pennsylvania – city to very rural. As I complete my eighteenth month of this ministry, I look at the congregation and marvel at those who choose to spend a slice of their free time with this church family.

We are old and young: 88 and 8 months not a bad age difference considering the demographic that states our churches are all gray. We are a bit gray, but also towhead and red-haired (natural) and red-haired (not quite so natural anymore).

We are brilliant and differently-abled – and each participates in our worship and in our church community to some extent.

Some of us stand straight and tall, others are bent, still others need canes and walkers. Ah, don’t assume that all the cane users are old – they are not, but have life experiences that have made them more dependent on help than some of the older folk.

Some are black and others white – we try to honor these differences as well as the sameness and humanness of each. Last evening, I went to Kwanzaa – we lighted candles and remembered that the earth and its produce are part of the African heritage. I was reminded that some families trace their heritage only six generations – my mother’s Norwegian family goes back to the 1500s. My paternal “Smith” (Irish) can be traced to the late 1800s.

Some are gay and others very straight. We don’t look to condemn or say, “the Bible says …” rather, we affirm that God loves us all!

We are farmers and teachers and historians and business folk and a minister and a few aspiring toward ministry – I try to encourage this vocation – and car dealers and restaurant owners and just plain hardworking.

We have good music and are grateful for our wonderful gift of a talented piano player to help cover the notes we enthusiastically sing off key.

When I remember to really count my blessings – to focus on what I have to be thankful for, not what I plan for this congregation – I am amazed that this giving group allows me the privilege of serving them. They welcome me into their homes, they offer a shoulder if I need it, a hearty laugh when I forget part of the worship (never the sermon or communion, but occasionally the communion hymn or The Lord’s Prayer) and a meal during holidays when I would be alone. Most of all they honor me by accepting me, by following my lead, by gently questioning my most off-the-wall suggestions and just by loving me.

There is a huge “culture chasm” between Mansfield/Wellsboro and Denver – much of it felt but not seen. I miss Denver and Colorado with an ache; I am blessed to be in this area where acceptance and caring are part and parcel of my adopted community.

And the people of God said “AMEN!”

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