As I wrote this reflection I was sitting in my living room and watching through my front window as egg-yolk-yellow leaves fell through a sky as blue as gas flames. Over at my church people were boxing up the offices: the computers and the copy machine, paper, ink, sharpies, scotch tape, financial records, thumb tacks. And they were packing up the Sunday school rooms: Godly play figurines, thousands of crayons, the Jesus puppet with his goofy smile, markers, colored fabric. In a different building other people were wrapping dishes and pots and pans. Still others in another place were storing banners and vestments, chalices and patens, wine, cruits, purificators and corporals.
The leaves turned over as they fell, giving the sense of pulsing color. A thousand little branches rattled in a tiny breeze.
Soon the Bishop would gather his vestments and get into his car. It would be white stoles. I would wish the stoles could be yellow for falling leaves or blue for tears.
“The church has left the building,” I thought, recalling the logo on the tee shirts – I think they were red – of people handing out water downtown on a hot summer day. But it hasn’t, really. It’s just moving across town to another building, one owned and run by Lutherans who will graciously share it with us until we figure out what is next for our parish.
The Sunday before last we dug up cremains preparatory to moving them to temporary storage at one of the funeral homes in town, and we scooped up symbolic spades full of earth for each of the people whose ashes had been scattered under the huge trees in our front yard. We placed the spades of earth in the pot of a small blue spruce which will be coming with us. A parishioner who hails from Germany remarked, “this is such an American situation.”
In today’s reading, after promising to come and spend a good amount of time with them, Paul says to the church in Corinth, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
I want to be there when the wide door for effective work swings open in this part of the world. I want to be standing there at the ready with my church community, all our hands open in our commitment to God’s love. This takes being nimble; shifting a bit from too much focus on how things are done and where we sit and which candles we use. I want us to be nimble; I want to be there.
By the time you read this there will be one less consecrated space in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Bishop will have read his proclamation, and authority for the property that once housed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will have passed into secular hands. All our stuff will be in storage – another typically American situation – except for the few symbolic items we will have taken with us to our temporary home. The leaves will still be falling on a new, fine, autumn day.
And where will Christ be? You know the answer to that, all you who watch from afar. Christ will be everywhere he was before and maybe in some new places as well. When the door for effective work swings open, his hair will be stirred by the breeze. He will look around for us, eyebrows raised in inquiry. And I hope we will be there, all of us, ready to get to work, and ready to stay awhile.
Goodbye to St. Paul’s on Elizabeth Street
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. Some of her ions can be viewed at http://everydaymysteries.com. And check out her novel at https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B074G137V8/ref=smi_www_rco2_go_smi_g2609328962?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1&ie=UTF8