Last week Tom and I attended our last worship service at Zion Lutheran in Fairview, Montana. The Wednesday night services have been a great blessing for us. It is hard enough for us to find a place to worship when we can’t go on Sunday mornings. But this church, with Pastor Tim, has been a wonderful place to worship for us. We wish we could pack it up and take it with us wherever we go.
Pastor Tim knew it was our last worship service at the church and he sent us out with a blessing. Tom and I were slightly nervous about it because – you know – still in a pandemic, but he put a hand on each of us and prayed over us. Assistant Minister Grace (the high school sophomore who reminds me of me at that age) also gave us a big hug. The other members of the congregation raised their hands toward us. We felt surrounded by love and the presence of God.
What makes you feel instantly a part of one congregation but not another? I appreciate a liturgy that feels familiar with songs and prayers that I, at least occasionally, know. It is important that the pastor knows your name from the first and wants to know your story. Which means, at least for me, that it is a congregation small enough where I can be seen as a person instead of a face.
Humor is important. I like a pastor who finds things to laugh about and who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously. I like someone who can admit they don’t know everything and still have questions of and about God. For me, it is also important that a congregation let me use my gifts. The first week we went to Zion Lutheran, we helped clean up the altar and put chairs away. Everyone pitched in and helped, at least carrying their own chairs.
In order for me to feel at home in a congregation, God must be revealed in the service. Pastor Tim had wonderful messages every week. In fact, he only had one slightly muddled message one week, and he admitted that he had already done four other services that week. He works so hard. Our last week he had a service on Sunday, a funeral on Tuesday, service on Wednesday, and another funeral on Thursday. But he still gave a wonderful homily about Jacob’s being accepted by God despite being a scoundrel.
Tom and I are going to miss this church and its pastor. We looked forward to worshiping there every week. The congregation, its Wednesday night services, and especially Pastor Tim have been a great blessing to us in this place.
Thank you, God, for a congregation where I feel accepted, welcomed, and loved. Thank you for a place that values me and my gifts. May this congregation continue to grow in love with you and in service to its community. Amen.