Broken Pieces

05/23/18

During this time of transition at Genesis, I can’t help but reflect on the nest full of baby birds that has recently been greeting me each time I enter the church. It has become, for me, somewhat of an icon, an image that has accompanied – and enriched – my own experience of God in these days and my experience of God at work in our church’s narrative. Above all, the image helps me find language to encourage, support, and express my deep gratitude for the community of Genesis United Methodist Church.

 

When the birds first hatched in the nest they looked so frail and vulnerable. They needed food and warmth and protection. This was my spiritual state when I first began attending Genesis in 2013. In fact, you were pretty much my final shot at church involvement. As an LGBTQ Christian I had endured significant heartaches (and headaches!) trying to find a community in which I could love and serve Christ in the fullness of my humanity. I also wanted to find a church community where my orientation would not be the only piece of me that was noticed. This search seemed unlikely to produce the desired result, until I was invited to a place called Genesis UMC! To my delight I found the church I had imagined – a place where I was safe and celebrated and challenged and loved.

 

To my complete surprise, at Genesis I was not only able to find healing around church and spirituality, but I was also called into ministry. First as your music director and then in pursuit of full-time ministry in the UMC. This community acted as a nest, a safe space where I learned to lead worship, shared my testimony during a service, tried out preaching and public prayer for the first time, and was offered the gift of sitting with some of you in times of grief and pain. Although I attempted these things with various levels of “success,” you faithfully reflected back only support and encouragement. You also accompanied me throughout three grueling years of seminary. I was frequently blessed by both tangible acts of support and by your prayers. Thank you. I will always imagine Genesis surrounding me like a nest during these challenging and invigorating times of God’s call.

 

Nests are strong places of protection for new life, but they’re constructed using a bunch of broken twigs and other random pieces of clutter. I think we “get” this image at Genesis – that God uses all of our broken pieces to make strong community. In fact, we have a central image in the sanctuary that depicts a cross made from a bunch of broken sticks. One of the things I loved about working with the music team at Genesis is that no one ever wanted to be an individual, spotlighted, one-man (or woman) band. Each of us realized that we needed the other to be strong. In community, the Holy Spirit is consistently at work to bind us together to be a strong, holy people. It’s not possible to have this strength as an isolated individual, only as a community bound together by the Holy Spirit. And when one of us leaves, God continues to be at work shaping the nest in new ways. As I left on Sunday, God blessed Genesis with four new members (welcome, Alex Hunt and Alex, Megan, and Benjamin Henning!). I look forward to seeing how God continues to build the Genesis nest with these new members and with those yet to discover Genesis.

 

It was fitting, I suppose, that our birds flew away yesterday – the day of my final staff meeting and last of my employment commitments to Genesis. Your goodbye this past Sunday was truly bittersweet. I was simultaneously grinning from ear-to-ear and crying throughout most of the service! I felt so celebrated and loved. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Each part of the service spoke deeply to my soul, but I think my favorite part was when I got to sit in the congregation and be led in worship by our music team. It was a significant moment of knowing that God has already prepared us for this transition. As I fly on, so do you, and God has given each of us everything we need for these next steps.

 

You have been faithful in your call to be church to me, my dear siblings in Christ. I hold you in my heart and in my prayers as you continue to nurture, strengthen, and give wings to all those who seek God in your midst.

Joan VanDessel

The Sending Church A Church in Mission