For the Living of These Days—A Word from Renee Purtlebaugh

Monday night’s drive thru “Thank you!” for Jim England and all the many gifts he has shared with us through these 2 ½ years of interim time was an absolute delight! It was beyond good to see your faces, to engage in conversation for a few moments about life in your world, and to celebrate Jim. Jim, for all that you have been to us in these days—we say thank you! And we are so grateful that the journey continues with you and Mary Helen in the days to come.

Remarkably, a moving moment occurred by happenstance as the final car to drive thru and thank Jim was none other than our new pastor, Mary Alice, who had been moving into her new home most of the afternoon and evening. This symbolic, socially distanced baton hand-off was not lost on any of us there to witness it.

Even in the midst of deep gratitude yesterday, we (the staff) remarked at the vast numbers of you mourning and grieving the loss of someone you love and/or dealing with the health needs of family members and your own bodies. Parents are beginning to think about navigating NTI again or making choices about hybrid, in-person or virtual learning. We’re imagining what virtual church might hold for the fall. Mary Alice is settling in and will soon begin her work among us. The work of justice continues. And we continue to creatively live and love and care for others as God calls us to, even in these pandemic days. The weeks before us are full to be sure, even as we are perhaps at our weariest moments on this journey.

My prayer for each of us as we hold deep gratitude in tension with grief and anxiety and weariness is that each of us might find rest for our bodies, minds and spirits in some way this week. May this week be one where we “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” as the Message Bible reminds us in Matthew 11. May we be nourished and renewed in the ways each of us most need.

And then, with our strength renewed by the God who walks with us, we will gather our energy and begin to imagine how to mark the beginning of this next season of possibility. We’ll think thoughtfully about how to create the next set of daily rhythms for our families. We’ll courageously keep pressing on toward creating a world where love and justice abound. We’ll embrace the next moments of wondering and imagining—with great hope—the tomorrow God has for each of us and for Highland.

May the promise of our collective God-given energy carry us into these next days with momentum and joy until we look around and realize the tomorrow that we have dreamed of is in fact our now.