From the Pastor...
“We thank you, our sisters and brothers,
that we have found a home among you for these years.
We thank you for this kindness.
We are grateful for partnering together in acts of ministry.
With joy we recall what we accomplished with God’s help,
and with sadness those dreams not fulfilled.
We ask your forgiveness for mistakes made and expectations not met.”
These are words from our liturgy this past Sunday – words spoken by one congregation to another. As we step forward with God’s leading, we began the process of bringing closure to our formal relationship with Prince of Peace. This is the kind of passage that warrants our reflection, and words of acknowledgement and affirmation.
In all of life people come in and out of our journeys, though often with little said. But we are affected by these encounters. They become part of ourselves for good, for bad, or indifferent. As we move on to the next chapter, we take the good, the new friendships. We also take the lessons of relationships, and the reminder of God’s care. We also venture forth for new opportunities, new relationships, always open to the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.
We bless one another. To bless one another is such an important thing. To wish God’s presence and blessing on one another. And in doing so, to acknowledge what has been. In my conversations with many of you, you have voiced that what was expected, or imagined, in this move to Prince of Peace did not go as expected. You never expected to be making a move as a church again. Therein the power of our liturgical back and forth on this past Sunday – to acknowledge, that there has been rich opportunities, as well as unmet expectations; that we likely have hurt or offended each other along the way. But we forgive, we acknowledge, and we bless. Our future, nor Prince of Peace’s future, is determined by what has happened in the past.
I have included here the poem that Ron Deal read for us on Sunday. For in it is a reminder of the opportunity and the challenge of really hearing one another; of being a community that is deeply connected with each other, deeply aware of God’s call and of the world around us, and able to walk faithfully into that.
I hope it blesses you again. With you in this next step of Calvary’s journey,
Colfax Community Network just said goodbye to a long-time staff member, Kelley Birschbach. He shared these parting words (edited):
I’m not sure I know how to communicate all I want to say or how grateful I am for the past five years working at CCN. I’ve been able to do exactly what was in my heart to do. As a person in my mid-twenties, how lucky am I to be able to say that? I wouldn’t trade it for any other job, any other mission, and certainly, no other students. To walk with these kids as they grow, to see all the challenges they face, to witness their courage, creativity, and kindness while also some of their loss, fear, and pain… and then to try to foster a relationship where there can be relief and trust and joy.
I recently went to a motel to say goodbye to a couple families. I let them know the news about my departure and then just sat with the kids asking about their new teachers and how the first weeks of school have gone. They asked me about my future, but mostly, we just hung out like usual. We told jokes and laughed and I lectured them on the importance of homework.
At one point, I sat down at the top of the 4th floor steps looking west down Colfax Avenue with Denver and the Front Range spread behind it. An 11 year-old girl came and sat next to me while a few kids chased one of the boys down to the parking lot. “Kelley, do you have a wife? How old are you? Yeah, you should really have a wife by now.”
“Oh, well thanks,” I said laughing. “I’ll get right on that.” She continued prodding me about the subject and eventually I asked, “Alright, well what do you think I should look for in a wife?”
She immediately shot back with two traits: physical attractiveness and wealth. “She should have a mansion,” she said. I chuckled a bit, but also sensed what must be behind those answers. “Hmmm, well, I’m not sure those are most important. What else?”
Nothing came to the top of her mind. She thought for a while, swinging around on the railing. “She should have a nice… car?”
This is something kids do. When they don’t know the answer, they search for what they think you want to hear. She was trying to guess the “right” answer, but even after a moment of critically thinking through my question, this bright young girl could not conceive of the kinds of character one would want in a committed relationship.
In what was now a pretty glaringly important conversation, I attempted to help her process her thinking. “Kiddo, what if she was really pretty and had lots of money, but she was really mean to me all the time?”
“You could hit her.”
My mind did a double-take, too. She did not say this with an ounce of humor. In her mind, it was the reasonable and probable solution. I kept thinking my questions would turn the light on, but they just led us further into sobering space.
Much of this girl’s present and future are held in those two astounding statements. That’s what she knows, understands, and envisions.
There is much more to say about that situation, but I hope it shocks all of us into a different mental and emotional space right now. Because it’s not a television show or even a story on a blog. It’s her life.
So as I go, I want to encourage all of us – one more time – to not run away from the pain of this little girl. Instead, I wish we’d all step a bit closer toward her in compassion. You don’t have to donate a million dollars (but if you’d like to!!) and you don’t have to come down to CCN with a bag of new fancy clothes to make her day. But maybe there’s a life connected to you right now that you can honor with compassion. Maybe look the cashier in the eye with a smile. Maybe apologize to someone. Maybe help the woman looking for her car. Maybe take that risk one more time. Or maybe just take a moment to breath and stop criticizing the person in the mirror. I don’t know, but you’ll know.
And moving forward think about these kids from time to time. Remember what they’re dealing with and trying to overcome. Remember that their parents were likely in very similarly traumatic childhoods not that long ago and are doing their best. Give, spread the word, and come be a part of this place that is uniquely special.