"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
I Corinthians 12:27
It has taken three months for the reality to sink in. For the first time in my memory, I am not a part of a community that regularly gathers together for worship.
I anticipated the shift in my vocation as it became clear that God's call was leading me to full time Mid-Council work. In the fall, I started meeting with a spiritual director, knowing that the move from planning worship and preaching weekly to a more nomadic Sunday schedule was going to be a struggle. I love planning worship. I love preaching. I miss the gift of doing that on a weekly basis.
But I miss the community more.
Today is Maundy Thursday, and I'm not sure where I'm going to worship tonight. I'm not sure where I will reflect tomorrow on the depths of Good Friday. Easter is all set; I was invited to preach and celebrate the resurrection with a church between pastors. In fact, I will preach three out of the four Sundays in April.
But I miss the community.
I was a strange child, actively seeking out a church in grade school where I could immerse myself. When we moved before seventh grade, I started the search again. When my friends in college were sleeping in, I often attended the early service at the church on the edge of the campus. And even in seminary, while I didn't commit to a single congregation, I did join the seminary community every week for worship.
I miss the community.
Paul's words about the body of Christ echo throughout his writings, calling believers in specific places to come together as one body. In fact, the image of the body of Christ is central to our Holy Week journey.
"This bread is my body given for you."
"They saw where the body was laid."
"They did not find the body."
"He is not here; he has been raised."
"Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe."
It is in the body of Christ, in the gathered and beloved community, that we come to know who Jesus is, that we begin to see where God is at work, that we sense the blowing winds of the Spirit. It is in the body of Christ, often broken and always human, that our faith is deepened, our lives are challenged, and our salvation is worked out with fear and trembling.
This is an essential part of the ordination process in the PCUSA. Without the affirmation of call by the body of Christ, the individual's personal sense of what Jesus is asking is not complete. In fact, it takes two bodies to discern the call to ordination: the body the individual is coming from and the body the individual is going to.
We believe that the gathered community is life-changing and earth-shattering. This is why we don't allow early voting or absentee ballots. The Spirit works through all of us together, present physically with one another, bearing witness to the body of Christ.
I don't believe that we can live a life of faith separated from the body of Christ. The beloved community, gathered by the grace of God, is essential.
And not just for faith. For life, as well. What a gift it is to share our deepest joys and deepest sorrows with people who know who we are, who will celebrate and grieve with us, who will pray for us, and who will journey beside us in faithful companionship. The body of Christ offers a place for us to know and experience abundant life.
So I will seek a new community, one where I can worship regularly sometime during the week, one where I can immerse myself in the rhythms of our church seasons. And I will celebrate the wondrous opportunity to gather with Presbyterian churches in Boston and Northern New England each Sunday. Because I am a part of these bodies, diverse and scattered as they are, and they are indeed a beloved community.