On Sunday a classmate and I went to visit the congregation where we had once served as Ministry-in-Context students, during our second year at LSTC. We’re both fifth-year seniors now, and hadn’t been back in three years.
We needn’t have worried. We received the same warm welcome we had received the very first Sunday we worshipped at Reformation Lutheran Church. Over the course of the year that followed, I preached my very first sermons, wore a clerical collar for the first time, presided over coffee hour for the first time. We learned a lot about ministry – and about context, too.
Roseland, the neighborhood Reformation calls home, has a rich history: This is where the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters once stood up to the Pullman Rail Car Company – and won. By the time we arrived, however, there were new realities: The neighborhood had – still has – one of the highest homicide rates in the city.
Yet still the warm welcome. Still the preaching that feels like an event. Still the sense of family among the people who have gathered to sing, to pray, to share a meal. Still Christ present in the congregation on a chilly Sunday morning.
I’m grateful to have revisited this place, but I’m especially grateful to have done so with Elisabeth, with whom I served at Reformation. This morning at chapel we bid her goodbye, along with four other classmates who graduate this month. Misty-eyed, we stretched our hands toward our companions and bid them go forth from this place with our blessing.
For a time we walked the untrodden paths together, but now they go out, with good courage. Soon I will join them. Soon will we all.