June Martin gave me a little sign that said, “O Lord help me to be the person my dog thinks I am”. It’s a solid prayer request. And if you’re a dog person you get it and if you’re not I hope you’ve experienced what it is to have a pet love you unconditionally. Sometime in the blur of this past fall we had to put our golden retriever down. She would have been 14 years old this March, she had a very good life. She was named Socks for her white paws and the rest of her was a golden red. I remember the day I took Kate from JK to just go ‘look at the puppies’; fast forward hours later and she’s running across the lawn with socks in her arms to greet Larry as he came home from work. “Look Daddy, we got a puppy!” to which he replied, “I see that” and the deal was done. I miss her. She was my dog, she waited for me every day at the top of the stairs for me to come home, she followed me all over the house and she slept every night on the floor beside my bed. She got sick very fast and I knew it was time to make the decision. I sat with her on the floor, she was too sick to lift her head but every time I touched her she wagged her tail making a thump, thump, thump on the floor. I will spare you the details of the rest of the day but as you can imagine it was very painful, I remember feeling actual pain in my heart once she was gone. I know some people who have decided they will never have a pet because of this kind of pain. I know some people who leave ministry because of this kind of pain. When I was first ordained I had a seasoned minister say to me she knew it was time to leave a church when it became too hard to do funerals, she felt like she was having to bury her friends. In my naivety I thought that was a poor reason to leave a church, now almost 9 years in and I get it. I still disagree with her, but I understand her reasoning because I understand the pain.
This report will be chock full of so many good things going on at Trinity. You will read page after page about successful programs, events, fundraisers and the work of many committees and more volunteers than we can count. Our annual report tells a story of a vibrant and deeply committed church family; our annual report reminds us that we have been busy. But the annual report can’t tell the whole story; the rest of the story is all that we share in worship, in prayer together, during coffee time or shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen. It’s the checking in on each other about how that appointment went, it’s about noticing when someone has been away, or letting me know someone isn’t well, it’s about sharing with each other- our hard news- the diagnosis, the loss, the worry, the what if’s. It’s about standing in the gap when there’s nothing to be done- except pray or bake, or knit something to wrap around us. The truth is when one of us hurts we all hurt and how do we tell that story? I don’t think we can, I think we just continue to live it as hard and as painful as it is, because that’s what it means to be family. Grief is cumulative and overwhelming, it can make us shut down when it feels like too much. It can cause ministers to move on, it can cause congregants to stop coming to church, grief can cause us to avoid the family in an attempt to avoid the pain. Grief can blur the story- the long view, the bigger picture- we can lose sight of the distance we’ve come, the memories we’ve shared, the moments we cherished and our hope, that death doesn’t get the last word.
As I sat with Socks that day I was remembering so much of our lives we shared together, so many memories sealed into my mind. I knew there were times I took her for granted, I knew there were times taking care of her was a chore and I knew there were times I didn’t give her the attention she deserved, but there was also the way I talked to her, the way we cuddled, the way I kissed her sleepy face when I came home, it was me she came to when she was hurting or needed something, we understood each other I swear she understood English. Bottom line, she knew she was loved, she knew she was my girl. I miss her and it hurts, but it was worth it and I’d do it again.
Our AGM reports are the bricks of our ministry, but the loving each other even
when it hurts- that’s the mortar that holds it all together. May we look up from our
work and see what is in front of us, may we cherish moments that we share
because we know life can change in just a moment. May we not take our faith, our
days or each other for granted. May we pause to be grateful for the journeys we’ve
shared together, the joy and the pain. And may we hold tight together as a family
bound by our faith that stands firm in life, in death and life beyond death. God is
with us, we are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Rev. Kathy - AGM Report 2019