Our bloggers are guiding our minds to the connections of the heart this week.  Turning from weariness to gratitude, Kristin Berkey-Abbott notices a parallel between herself and the living things in the garden, “The milkweed is blooming this week–these are plants that have been eaten back to bare stalks several times since I bought them in July. They are hardy souls.  We are too.  The monarchs have returned to the milkweed to enjoy the new growth. Even the non-poets can see the metaphor.” 

Remembering her dad on the anniversary of his death, Lara Blackwood Pickrel says, “He should be here. He should know the weight of his granddaughter, the feel of her squirmy toddler body in his arms as he twirls her around the living room. He should occupy the other side of the dual recliner in the home we now call “Grandma’s House.” He should be here to celebrate new jobs, new homes, new adventures as his daughters and sons-in-law grow (and grow into) our careers and adult lives.  Damnit, he should be here…Much of the time I can compartmentalize, outrun, avoid, outmaneuver the grief.”  But not on this anniversary day, which also recalls other losses. 

Lamenting our lack of connection with each other, Julia Walsh remembers a long day of waiting at the airport.  “At one point during that day, I walked by a whole row of people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at an upscale bar. Everyone was silent. Well-dressed young professionals and middle-aged business people sipped drinks and ate their lunches, but no one spoke. Instead, everyone peered into their devices, staring at their screens. I noticed a man and a woman of similar age and style of dress, both handsome and classy looking, sitting side by side. In my imagination, they were two single people bored with dating apps and lonely but too disengaged from the people around them to notice the potential connection sitting just inches away from their elbow. They missed the chance to interact, to discover their attraction, to realize their potential for romance or even life-long commitment. It’s not impossible: I’ve encountered several happily-married couples that met by chance in a public place…What I observed that day was not unusual; it is less common nowadays for strangers to strike up a meaningful conversation with others than for people in crowds to be staring at screens.”  She wonders if we are “missing chances to love our neighbors as Jesus has asked us to do.” 

After decades of ministry, Jan Edmiston remembers with regret some choices she would make differently now.  “My biggest regrets in parish ministry have been those times when I chose my congregation over my family.

The church treasurer’s daughter was scheduled to get married on Saturday and on the Wednesday before, my mother’s skeleton basically collapsed as a result of the breast cancer that had spread to her bones.  I flew home to be with her Wednesday night, but my clergy spouse stayed behind to officiate – which was a blessing to the bride and groom.  But my husband didn’t get to say good-bye to my mom or be with me in those holy hours.  Mom died on Friday. HH officiated the wedding on Saturday.

A beloved church member’s daughter wanted to get married on May 5th which is great except that May 5th also our TBC’s birthday.  TBC was hoping for a Friday night slumber party (but I would have a wedding rehearsal that night and all the wedding events the next day.)  I worked it out and did it all: the rehearsal, the wedding (but no reception), and the slumber party. And I learned that I would never be available for weddings on my children’s birthdays again.

I missed Senior Night for FBC’s last lacrosse game in high school because I had a Session Meeting.  Yep.  I was that mom who missed my child’s event because of a meeting. Our calls are indeed “work.”  And it’s good to balance church expectations with family expectations.  The more children the pastors have, the more parenting events they will either 1) miss or 2) attend at the risk of hearing punishing comments from parishioners about “taking too much time off.” It’s not called Tug of War for nothing.”

And, in all the seasons of life, guest writer Martha Peck at Gifts in Open Hands is praying for us all.  “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. God, we face so many choices, and we feel pulled in every direction. Be with us in our confusion and our fear, our celebration and our hope.

A time to be born and a time to die…Help us to do all we can in the time we have, and to accept our mortal limits.

A time to plant and time to pluck up what is planted…Move us– to plant community gardens and urban green spaces, and then to share our harvest and our delight with open hands and glad hearts.

A time to kill and a time to heal….Kill in us, the restlessness that leads to overconsumption. Ground us in your love…

A time to tear and a time to sew...Knitter of the universe, help us to unravel systems that trap people in poverty and despair. Work with us to sew a new fabric, beautiful and strong, woven of every living thing, and able to cover the whole earth with your love.” 

Where are you feeling connected these days?  Which bonds in your life are shifting, or feeling strained?  Where are you feeling the losses?  We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Mary Austin is the pastor of Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church, a diverse Presbyterian Church in the Washington, DC area.  She is the author of Meeting God at the Mall

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One thought on “Friday Festival: Connections, Broken and Whole

  1. Thank you so much for including Martha Peck’s wonderful litany. I work as a book mentor for folks (much nicer than coach for the nudging I do) The book that will include this will be a gift, indeed. Watch for it.


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