When we first began attending Trinity Episcopal parish across the street from the Texas Christian University campus, it never occurred to us that we might actually become a part of a “family” there. We were hiding, needing a church community but unable to attend our once beloved little parish on the west side of Fort Worth. We needed a place to lick our wounds and heal in seclusion, without interference, yet in the midst. Trinity was large enough to disappear within yet offered a smaller “folk” service where we did not feel totally lost.
It took us some time to realize that we had become a part of this family. Tucker being accepted as a part of the band was a big indicator. He began by just sitting with the singers, then inched his way up to the guy playing the congas so that soon he was asking if he could play after the service. After a few pointers and instructions on his behavior during the service, his natural talent and willingness to do what it took to play made him a regular.
Then there was the extra special part of it all – almost every Sunday, at least two kids and two to four grandkids filled the pew with us…in fact, we easily filled one and one-half pews when all the kids were there. There is something very special about having a family as part of one’s worship community.
All this came rushing home to both Debbie and me this past Sunday, the first one after Christmas. As we sat in the midst of this beloved service, we realized just how much we miss our “family” – both the smaller one and the larger one.
While the lay and clergy leadership of Trinity played a vital part in remaining within the Episcopal Church, the parish itself goes about its business. Had I been a visitor with no insider knowledge, I would not have known that anything controversial was going on. The service was a traditional one with the readings that Episcopal parishes all over the country used that day. Even though the reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians had within it the verse, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian” and the disciplinarian of the diocese in the past is no longer a factor of discernment, the service was all about John’s declaration of “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
C'est la vie.
Yet underlying all the “normal” stuff, I could feel the joy…maybe not as unbridled as at the Faith Community of Good Shepherd’s on Christmas Eve night but there nonetheless. It was an undercurrent, calmly flowing across the faces of all those we greeted. Maybe it was that the tension was greatly relieved as if the relief one feels after a painful injury was healed and what remains is the realization that the pain is gone. There was a sense of wellness.
We were not able to bend our schedule enough to attend the Faith Community of St. Stephen’s in Hurst. However, I have been told that it is much the same there. Then there is the combined community of faith in Parker County – remnants from three different west Fort Worth and Parker County parishes. There are so many more and all are growing rapidly.
Of course, there is a sadness in all of these communities. A part of each one is missing. But one thing is for sure. It is not about the building regardless of what many would like us all to believe. It is about the community of faith itself.
The thing we know is sure – when the community is well and the “gall of bitterness” removed, the work of Jesus becomes a simple task.