The pilgrim sets forth,
tethered to the past by unseen bonds of memory,
yet cloaked in hope,
afoot in sandals of determination,
trudging toward something new.*
This past Sunday a pilgrim came to us at Plymouth as our candidate for the full-time Associate Minister position. Her name is the Rev. Carla Cain. I am very grateful to say that she was welcomed warmly and the vote on her candidacy at the congregational meeting was overwhelmingly “Yes!” Thanks to all of you who were with us at the Meet and Greet time for Carla on Saturday, and all who were with us on Sunday to welcome her in worship and to welcome her onto our Plymouth staff! I look forward to working with her as a colleague. And I look forward to helping you get to know her as one of your pastors. Her first day on the job will be Sunday, December 15th, the third Sunday in Advent. I hope you will be at church that day! (If you are still catching up on this staff development, you can find info on Carla and her call as our full time Designated-Term Associate Minister here.)
The above description of being a pilgrim truly fits the feeling of coming to a new ministerial position. You come with your past experiences of ministry, with so many dear memories of past relationships with parishioners you have loved, of friends you have ministered with as a colleague. It is poignant, and a little scary, to leave these cherished and comfortable ways of being behind and to strike out into unknown territory. It is also exciting and “cloaked in hope” for the new relationships that will be established, the new forms of ministry that you will encounter, the new worship services you will lead, classes you will teach, sermons you will write. I can tell you from my experience of Carla that she does come with hope and determination to share the good news of God-with-us in Jesus the Christ here at Plymouth. She brings a hugely compassionate heart, a keen mind, a great sense of humor and a spirit deeply in touch with the Spirit. She is equipped to encourage us and to challenge us as we continue to go deeper in faith and in expanding the realm of God’s love and justice here in northern Colorado.
Being a pilgrim is not limited to those of us in professional ministry. We are ALL pilgrims on the way in life. How is your life like the pilgrim described in Mary Ylvisaker Nilsen’s quote above? What “new” journey are you setting out on this week? It could be large or small. Either is significant. How do the “unseen bonds of memory” tether you? Do they ground you with confidence? Or are they holding you back? What gives you hope this day? What is woven together in the cloak of hope that protects you on the journey? Where are you determined to go? Baby steps count on the journey! Who are your companions as you “trudge toward something new?”
You know what I will say next, right? You are not alone! God is always with you on your journey. God comes, bidden and unbidden, to trudge along side each of us. Sometimes in the presence of prayer, sometimes in the presence of a single soul friend, sometimes in the presence of community. At Plymouth we all come to worship each week as pilgrims, with cherished and not so cherished memories of the past, with cloaks of hope that may need repair or may be large enough to share. We come trudging with determination to be together in God’s presence and to welcome all who may to stop by on their journey to worship with us. Thanks be to God for the journey!
With you in Spirit,
PS If you are interested in the Visual Theology Pilgrimage to Italy that Hal and I are leading in April 2020 visit this page! The sign up deadline is November 30th.
* Poetic description written by Mary Ylvisaker Nilsen for the artwork of Kristi Ylvisaker which is inspired by the poetry of Denise Levertov; From the cover of Faith@Work magazine, Spring 2008.
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. Read more