We are a church in transition. What should we expect? After my recent transition to wintering in Florida I’d say, expect the unexpected. So, is that a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is that no one can predict the future. We have just as much evidence for a future “good” surprise as for a “bad” surprise; which is to say, we have no solid evidence that either will occur!
But change can be scary, so people often develop negative expectations. People like me.
One reason for selecting Safety Harbor FL for my winter home is that my brother lives there with his wife and son. Although Valarie is Jewish, she told me that she had heard that there was a really great church near my condo and she was pretty sure that it was Presbyterian. She couldn’t remember who had told her, but they had said that it was very active and had a lot of activities in addition to the services on Sunday. She told me how to get there, so I went to check it out. Indeed it was Presbyterian. Northwood Presbyterian is also quite a large church. Uh-oh.
I grew up in a small church in Tarpon Springs, FL. Later it became a really big church; when I attended the new church it felt like a concert, not worship. So I decided that I could never feel comfortable in a big church. Surprise! Northwood Presbyterian has three Sunday services so it is less overwhelming, and everyone made me feel welcome. I played in the bell choir, attended a monthly Bible Study and a sewing group, and went to several church dinners. Loved it!
I doubted that I would really enjoy Thanksgiving in FL because “I’ll miss my (MA) family and our traditions so much.” I did miss them, but celebrated “Thanksgivingkuh” at Valarie’s parents’ home. Last year, the first night of Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving. My friend Janet and I joined the extended family and a friend of Valarie’s mother, Sally (who said she wasn’t Jewish either) for a wonderful dinner. After the meal, we watched the ceremony of lighting the first candle on the Chanukah menorah. Talk about memorable! Another negative expectation not realized.
When I went to my first Bible Study, I got the third surprise. The leader was the last to arrive. She asked me what had brought me to the church. “Well, my Jewish sister-in-law recommended this church to me.” The leader asked for my sister-in-law’s name. I wondered why but I told her, and she laughed saying, “Marti . . . . . Sally! I just knew that I knew you from somewhere. Thanksgiving!” I had been meeting so many new people since moving to FL that I hadn’t recognized Sally, but she knew me.
And the circle was closed because now I knew who had recommended the church that I thought I wouldn’t like, and I had already met her at the Thanksgiving that I had not looked forward to.
I suppose that I could sum this up with, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Instead, during this transition period I will encourage you to “Trust in the Lord.” And be open to surprises!