Alb and stole.
Extra burp cloths.
Baby in the car seat.
Check. Check. Check. Check.
It’s a familiar routine for clergy parents – gathering everything needed for church and for the kids to get through Sunday morning.
Getting ready to lead Sunday worship and getting kids ready is no small task. Especially as a clergy couple.
I’m on leave from call and most Sundays I’m able to get the kids ready for worship while my husband focuses on getting himself ready to lead worship and any last minute worship/teaching prep that he needs to do. Yet there are Sundays when I’m supply preaching and we’re both getting everyone ready, finalizing sermons, going over confirmation notes, changing diapers, and feeding everyone all before church begins.
On Sunday I drove myself and my two-month old to a neighboring town for the fourth and final time where I’ve been preaching for a colleague. As I lugged everything from the car to the church: car seat on my arm, alb across my shoulder, papers in my mouth, I couldn’t help but think about all the things we carry into church with us.
Yes, there are those mornings coming to church when you’re leading a Sunday school class or assisting in worship. You carry lessons and crafts and instruments. You bring your hope that all will go well and you’ll share love with others.
Yes, there are those mornings when you come to church with all the kids’ activity bags and snacks and changes of clothes and bottles. You pray that you can rest a bit during worship and that your kids will know they, too, are loved and welcomed.
Yes, there are the mornings where a meal is taking place and you bring your casserole or dessert. You carry the food hoping it will nourish and sustain those who eat it.
And then there are those mornings when it feels like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Those days when no one else can see what you’re carrying deep inside.
Those days when it’s hard to get out of bed.
When the endless news cycle gets harder and harder to hear and turn off.
Those mornings where the to-do list is looming.
Those mornings when the harsh words from an argument with a loved one are all you can hear.
Those mornings when you don’t know how you’ll get through without another drink.
Those mornings heavy with grief, afraid that everything about the service will remind you of a loved one taken too soon.
Those mornings anxiously awaiting test results.
Those mornings seeking someone to simply say hello.
Those mornings wishing you could turn back time.
Those mornings where you don’t believe.
Those mornings when you can’t trust that you deserve God’s love and forgiveness.
Those mornings when all you want to hear is God’s love and forgiveness for you.
Each of us is carrying something.
And these past four Sundays when I’ve been lugging the car seat and baby and everything else, you know what met me at the church?
A welcome smile and an open door.
It’s easy to see the tangible things we carry and to offer help. And yet if we remember that we all are carrying something, perhaps we can all be a bit gentler to one another. We can open the door, smile, and say, “Welcome. I see you, be gentle with yourself, you are loved.”
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. Her website is http://www.kimberlyknowlezeller.com