For the Living of These Days—A Word from Mary Alice Birdwhistell

The “living of these days” for me as your pastor has been quite different than any of us probably imagined it would be at the beginning of this year. Never would I have imagined that we wouldn’t be able to gather together for worship face-to-face. Never would I have imagined that I would meet my new congregation in Zoom rooms, Facebook profiles, and drive-thru’s around the church parking lot. Never would I have imagined that I wouldn’t be able to visit you in the hospital, to lay hands on deacons as they begin their ministry with us, or to offer a hug to the people who are quickly becoming the family of God for me in this place. Never would I have imagined that I wouldn’t know what it feels like for our singing to echo off the stone walls of the sanctuary, to share a meal together in the Fellowship Hall, or to dream together around the table as we plan for the upcoming year.


And there is certainly grief and loss in all of this. There is grief for us as a congregation, and there is grief for me as your pastor. We can all feel it.


And yet, never would I have imagined the beautiful ways that God’s love might continually break through the boundaries and limitations of Covid-19. One of the best ways I have experienced God’s tangible love and faithful presence in this community is through meeting you – something I do not take for granted in this unique time and space.


In my short time with you at Highland, I have already had over 45 meetings with you – in the sanctuary, on your back decks, in Zoom rooms, on my front porch, and even on Highland’s playground. This has allowed me to have one-on-one time with a little over 100 people from the Highland family. Each of these meetings, without exception, is sacred space that is bringing healing and hope to this unique season that we share.


Each time I meet you, you invite me into your stories. You share your deep love for the unique kind of faith community that Highland aspires to be. You share your honest questions, your frustrations, and the real challenges of what it means for us to be the Church in authentic ways. And, you share your God-sized dreams about where we might journey together as the Highland family in the days ahead.


I recognize that we will need to get creative about these meetings as the weather gets colder and the days get darker earlier. However, know that these meetings are and continue to be one of my top priorities as I begin as your pastor.


Someone asked me if I would have scheduled these meetings if Covid hadn’t happened. I’m not sure, but I doubt they would have looked quite like they do now.


And so, for the chance to be together with you in creative ways, to hear from you, learn from you, give to you, and receive from you, I give great thanks. Never would have imagined what a gift this would be.