As we rapidly progress from summer to winter in New England, we are granted several weeks of exquisite weather called, "Fall." It is in these days, when the leaves slowly blush from green to orange to red, that nature seems to invite us into its crisp air for quiet meditation. I often find myself slowly meandering down well-foliaged streets and paths, no destination in mind, in subtle homage to this time of year.
Alternatively, I did some semi spur-of-the-moment exploring in a new town this weekend. I hopped on whichever bus arrived at the stop I had wandered to, rang the bell when I saw what looked like an interesting area, and ended up across town. I stepped out of the bus, looked around, wandered a bit. Realizing I was a lone female in what looked to be a questionable and unfamiliar part of town, I thought it might be advantageous to find a coffee shop and camp out. I made my way to a delicious little restaurant called "Soul Bistro." I befriended the wrinkled old chef named Alfredo, discussing the nature of southern food- as he proudly offered up some pan-fried trout almandine. I settled down in the near empty dining room with my trout and peach tea, pulled out my copy of Durkheim's "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life" and my yet unopened edition of "Christian As Minister."
A bit intimidated by the reading I had before me, I took a moment to reflect on the vocational discernment meetings I had participated in earlier in the week. I stumbled upon the realization that I want to do urban ministry, although that's not really a surprise. I have been wrestling with the idea of finding a place within the church especially. Feeling like only misery would ensue if I, hippie liberal, began pastoral ministry in the deep south, I wonder where I belong, where I will wander. And what about my denominational affiliation- I love the United Methodist Church, but there are some major qualms with the current doctrine. Do I stick around to fight for that change, or do I seek another denomination that seems to be more like-minded? Can I be a part of a whole with which I do not entirely agree? Can I be intentionally out of place?
And as if on cue, I laid down the open book, sat back, and looked straight ahead. There in front of me was a giant bulletin board filled with information about the homeless shelters, food drives, food pantries, and rehabilitation programs being started, continued, and operated by the local church community. So here I was in a northern city eating southern food, an outsider among an insider's community, in unfamiliar territory with steady confident steps. And God smiled and said, "Silly girl, how could you be anywhere else?"