Comfort and Discomfort

Standing in front of you talking about myself is out of my comfort zone. I prefer to sit in the back and soak in all the love, faith, hope and truth this space has to offer. But I feel it is important to share with you why I give to this faith community, prompted by Ashley. If that means getting out of my comfort zone, so be it.

We all got to this community differently, and here’s my story. I first walked through the doors of Lyndale in September 1998 when the church was located at 31st and Aldrich. I came to support a good friend who was a member of Lyndale suffering with terminal breast cancer. My plan was to stay through the end of the Sunday school year to make sure her children would attend along with my own, which I did. Long story short; my friend Joanne died in January 1999, and I never left Lyndale.

In trying to identify why I chose and love Lyndale as my faith community, I kept coming back to two themes: comfort and discomfort.

I’ll talk about comfort first using personal examples.

I saw how my friend Joanne was comforted and loved in her last days in the knowledge that the faith community of Lyndale would support her and her family through and after her death, which occurred at the early age of 45. And so, I stayed. My children, along with hers, learned about Christ’s love and mercy and were nurtured by this congregation; even confirmed here.

I found comfort and support again in this faith community during my divorce. Audrey Benson, whom many of you knew and loved, volunteered to go to the courthouse with me in her scooter, because she said I should not go in front of the judge alone.

My children and I, and many family members and friends, were comforted and soothed during my ex-husband’s, my children’s father’s, struggles with addiction, PTSD and ultimately death. Pastor Don Portwood conducted the funeral service here in Springhouse and graveside at Fort Snelling in a way that comforted we who mourned.

I found comfort and encouragement here when I was fortunate enough to find my soul mate Tom, whom I married in 2015. In fact, we were the first Lyndale marriage to take place in Springhouse, right in the south sanctuary performed by Don Portwood.

I found comfort and healing in the words of Ashley at the hospital when Tom suffered and died of a heart attack in 2016. Pastors Ashley and Rebecca prayed with us and were sources of strength at the service and graveside. Mary Lewis’s beautiful voice, Mary Vanderford’s lasagna dinner delivered at just the right time, and the presence of this congregation comforted me and kept me strong during a time of unthinkable grief.

There are many more examples of comfort that I’ve graciously received from this faith community, but I’m moving to discomfort. Besides standing in front of you sharing personal information, Lyndale has brought me discomfort in several ways.

When I inquired about becoming a member, I asked Pastor Don, “What are UCC’s doctrines, its tenets? What am I supposed to believe?” He said, “what do you believe? It turns out that in the UCC, congregations at the local level make many decisions about doctrine and ministry. Imagine my discomfort at having to think about what I believe and what decisions to make after a lifetime of prescribed theology and copious amounts of rules about who can be married and who can’t, who can vote or serve on the church council, is dancing okay or not okay, who can take communion etc. In the past I just had to read the rules and decide which I agreed with and which I didn’t. But here we all share in the responsibility of deciding our mission, positions and what we believe.

I voted in favor of Lyndale not performing any marriages until all consenting adults could be married legally. This all or none decision was the right thing to do, but it created discomfort for me by taking away the opportunity of marriage in this space and performed by our pastors from many couples. Fortunately, the law did change. Let’s be vigilant to make sure it doesn’t change again.

The first time I served at Simpson Shelter and worked with Families Moving Forward I felt discomfort. What would I say to homeless people? What would they say to me? Why do I have a home and plenty to eat while many women, men and children right here in our neighborhood do not?

Thanks to this community, I stand in the discomfort of knowing that I have white privilege. I thought that having a good job, owning a home and walking around free were my accomplishments. Now I see them through the lens of white privilege and realize that people of color have been, and still are, denied those things.

I felt discomfort when I heard that Ashley had to go to court to legally adopt her own child, because our laws require second parent adoption for same sex couples, but not for others.

I know I will continue to feel discomfort as a member of this faith community, and for that I am thankful.

Author and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr, sums up discomfort nicely, “Most of us need to have the status quo shaken now and then, leaving us off balance and askew, feeling alienated for a while from our usual unquestioned loyalties. In this uncomfortable space, we can finally recognize the much larger kingdom of God.” This reading is something our beloved Fred Smith shared with the leadership council at retreat.

I hope I have given you a sense of why Lyndale UCC is important to me. I ask you to join me in giving of your resources, even increasing by 10% if you are able, so that we can continue the blessed comfort and discomfort that is part of this faith community. Besides financially, there are other ways to contribute. Several committees can use your help. The Thrive team, which I am delighted to be part of, is looking for ideas for great gathering events throughout the year. Share your love of this church with others—new members are a gift. I ask that you examine your own situation and decide how you can give to Lyndale in 2019.

Thank you for listening.