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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

May 2014

~Searching For Meaning~


At that time, Jesus declared...'Come unto me,
all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest'.”
~Matthew 11:25-28


Dear Members and Friends,

            An enormously successful capital campaign is still upon us, of course, but the most labor-intensive parts of the campaign are past.  Lent is behind us.  The triple-whammy of Holy Week is also past.  A capital campaign brings its unexpected joys, as do Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  Easter Sunday was a beautiful and very moving celebration amid the daffodils and the tulips—that most Presbyterian of flowers—with near record attendance (for the past decade, anyhow).  All of these times were meaningful and joyful.  But still, a part of me rejoices in the lazy expectation of slipping back into the quiet rhythm of church-life-as-usual.  No big holidays.  No big campaigns.  I know, I know, I'd get in trouble if some folks heard me say that.  Church life isn't meant to be “usual.”  It's meant to be a rewarding struggle, a challenge to the status quo of the world, perhaps even a thrill from time to time.  (Besides, if you want to get technical, the Easter Season is meant to be a fifty-day “sustained high” that reaches its jubilant crescendo in June, at Pentecost.)  And yet, in all reality, things get quieter in most churches from May through August.  And we need these less-celebrated times, too, to be reminded of God's living presence in all the ordinariness of life.

            Whether it's Christmas, or Easter, or the many in-between days, we still bring our ongoing search for meaning and purpose inside the walls of the church, and here our quest is rewarded.  In Frederick Buechner's book, The Longing for Home: Recollections and Reflections, the author describes his grandparents' palatial house in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh; it's the only place where he ever really felt “at home” as a child.  Now, as an old man, he has this to say:

Even if my grandfathers had been less shadowy and I had been less timid, I wonder if I would ever have been able to learn from them what I would give so much to know now about who they were, both for its own sake and also for the sake of learning something more about who I am myself… I suspect that our stories in their fullness will always be hidden from each other and that all those whiskered old men and bonneted old women looking out at us from their photographs in the family album will always remain mysteries to us even if, like me, they happen to have written their memoirs.  And yet I believe that all is not lost.  Maybe we can never know each other’s stories in their fullness, but I believe we can know them in their depth, for...in their depth we all have the same story. 

            Whether we’re rich or poor, male or female, a nineteenth-century Swiss jeweler or a twentieth-century American clergyman like me with a penchant for writing books, or a young squirt celebrating his twenty-first birthday in the twenty-first century, our stories are all stories of searching.  We search for a good self to be and for good work to do.  We search to become human in a world that tempts us always to be less than human or looks to us to be more.  We search to love and to be loved.  And in a world where it is often hard to believe in much of anything, we search to believe in something holy and beautiful and life-transcending that will give meaning and purpose to the lives we live. 

Thank you for all that you do to make Bower Hill Church the active, growing, and exciting congregation that it is today.  In return for all your labor and love, I trust that in this place you find “something holy, and beautiful, and life-transcending” in return.  (Yes, I took the liberty of adding the “Oxford Comma” to Buechner's phrase, just because I believe it gives the sentence more meaning...)

In Christ's Peace,
~Brian