May Christ dwell in our hearts through faith, as we are being rooted and grounded in love. ~ Ephesians 3:17
From the sidewalk on Grand Avenue, I walk through our church yard. I always marvel at the two aspen trees—tall and silent until the wind blows. Just over fifteen years ago, we planted them, two saplings, stick figures, now they can stand on their own.
The grass is soft and green under my feet, the evening shadows move in a slow dance across the lawn. I remember when the yard was full of sticky weeds when Jennifer and I with young children moved to Mancos close to twenty years ago. A drought ravaged the yard. A couple from Durango donated sod to our church because they were grateful that our church took time to visit their aging mother at the Valley Inn.
When we laid the sod down, several men and women gathered in the late afternoon to prepare the soil, unroll the sod, and soak it with water. We finished late in the evening with a potluck dinner, stories, and sore backs. The lines that separated the rows of new sod have long since disappeared, and many of those men and women have passed on as well, but I can feel them next to me as I walk through the yard.
A handmade wooden cross with green beads draped over it stands in the corner of our lawn. The cross is a remnant from a sanctuary gathering in support of Rosa and immigrants.
I remember the community coming together as one. Many of you were there. People from all walks of life and faith traditions, young and old, gathered to love and support our immigrant brothers and sisters. Eating food, singing songs, and saying prayers we stood together as one body. We rejoiced together and we mourned together (see 1 Corinthians 12:26) with hope that things could change.
With Rosa out of sanctuary, I have thought about taking the cross down in a ceremony, but we always have a cross, big or small, to carry. So, for now, I look at the cross, remember the hands that made it, and give thanks for the gift of a community standing together in compassion.
I remember countless funerals and memorials in the church and the overflow crowds that would sit in the yard under the shade of trees. I never thought we would host my own mother’s memorial on these holy grounds which she loved dearly through the years. I still laugh and marvel when I think about blessing over fifty dogs and one cat at her celebration of life. As far a I know, not one dog fight broke out. I take a deep breath and breathe in over one-hundred years of songs and prayers saturating this sacred place in peace.
Lottie Reddert wrote in our church history that Reverend Sensabaugh held one of our first services in Mancos in January of 1883. “It was a crisp moonlit Saturday night.” After finishing the sermon Sensabaugh announced the benediction, but “he was interrupted by a gentleman who arose and said, “Parson, we aren’t ready for the benediction. It’s been a long time since we’ve been together, and it’s three hours until midnight. We have two of the best fiddlers in the country, so move the benches back and, Parson, we’d like you to lead us in a dance.”
Remember how long we went without meeting in person during Covid, and we gathered outside in the yard for the first time? Remember the great joy when we saw people for the first time in months? We forgot our fiddles, but I like to think we danced within our hearts.
Always the community seems to gather in the gardens, to work, to play, to dance, to pray, and to celebrate and to mourn. Where would we be without the gift of community?
As I walk through the gap between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall, a man jumps off the bench under the pergola and says, “I’m leaving. I’m leaving.” “You can stay,” I say. “The shade is good.”
Do we keep our doors open? Would we recognize the living Christ if we saw him?
May we be a community “rooted and grounded in God’s love” (see Ephesians 3:17) as we struggle to be an inclusive and welcoming church. May we be gentle with one another as we move faithfully three steps forward and two steps back. When our service is done, may we take out the fiddles and dance.
Blessings and peace,