by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters, October 2014

Happy Anniversary! Days like these just seem to sneak up on you, right? A year ago, I wrote about all of the firsts we would experience together. In the time between that first article and this one, we have made our way through the entire cycle of the Christian year from Advent to Christ the King Sunday. We have worshiped in the morning, vespered in the evening, and sung the silence of Taizé on Tuesday nights. We have communed, baptized, and soon will bless all the animals.

We have had CBF, VBS, and more than a few WOM and PIM meetings. Beyond that I have found that a class refers to itself as the Grumpy Old Men. Does that make them the GOMs in our particular verbiage?

Even in this past month, you have dumped an untold number of gallons of ice water on me for a good cause; and during one season I nearly set the chapel on fire with the burning of the palms for no good reason.

I tried to learn your names quickly. Apparently this gave me a good reputation…maybe an unwarranted one. I am pretty sure I simply confidently renamed a few of you and you just went with it to be nice. Sorry Barbara, I mean Helen, I mean Barbara. Your patience has far exceeded my memory.

We have celebrated happy nuptials in holy matrimony and held each other close during final moments of saying goodbye. The seekers in sneakers have walked through the waters of baptism and the sneaky seniors have played more than their fair share of games at Jim Dandies. I have held my first baby dedication in our sanctuary and heard your promise to help raise up the child while choking back happy tears.

I experienced the particular, provincial, and sometimes peculiar qualities of what it means to be the church in this place. And you know what, I am still “all in.” Last October we moved to Macon, jumped into the midst of this community, and fell wholeheartedly in love with Highland Hills. This season of introductions and relational romance is often referred to as the “honeymoon” period of the pastorate. But let’s be clear: the real romance at the heart of any community doesn’t happen between a pastor and a congregation but instead Christ and the church.

The relationship that we must prove vital is that of the life and mission of Jesus and the life and mission of this congregation. We must worship, lifting up the name of Christ. We must open wide our doors and minds to the welcome of Christ for all. We must learn from the way of Christ as fellow pilgrims. We must sacrifice our lives for the will of God in risk-taking mission and ministry. That is the best of all marriage, and it is one to which we must commit our common life.