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An Update from Pastor Jenna

‘For surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’ 

~Jeremiah 29:11

 

Beloved people of Trinity,


Lenten blessings be with you all. 


In the past two months, I have accepted the gift of being on medical leave with great care, gratitude and intention. 


I have rested and moved my body, 

practiced solitude and being social, 

cried and laughed. 


In mid-February, I went on a trip to Mexico that I had planned several months ago. One of the women I met on my trip to the Holy Land (last June) lives in Oaxaca, and so I was delighted to accept her invitation to host me there. 


I was walking around on my own in a town just outside Oaxaca when I heard music coming from a large Catholic church. It was Ash Wednesday, so I was simply giddy and eager to join this worship service I happened to stumble upon. I knew I wouldn’t understand the liturgy in Spanish, but just being with a worshiping community and marking the beginning of Lent in this way felt sacred - so I wandered inside. 


The sanctuary was full, so I respectfully stood in the back, nodding and smiling at curious - presumably local - worshipers who noticed me, nodding and smiling in return (probably thinking: “Huh. Who is this white lady?”). 


I soaked in the full brass band that belted out familiar hymns and reveled in the grand gothic architecture and kaleidoscopic stained glass of the sanctuary. 


As I looked towards the priest swinging incense at the altar, I noticed a portrait of a man. “Which saint is that?” I asked myself. Then I noticed something else: the portrait was sitting on top of what appeared to be a coffin. 


Ohhhh, shit. I pulled out my phone (which I had put on silence) and opened “Google Translate.”


“Lo siente,” I whispered to the woman next to me as I showed her my phone screen: “¿Es pesto un funeral?”


“Si,” she whispered back.      


OHHH, SHIT. This is a FUNERAL. 


Needless to say: I was mortified. I awkwardly bowed at the woman and quickly left the church, wondering if I should say ten “Hail Mary’s,” or something. “I don’t know how that works - but this feels so bad!”


As I emerged back in the Mexican sun, I reflected on how ridiculous and disrespectful I felt. 


And then I thought of the full sanctuary, of the community of loved ones who were gathered to give thanks for the life of this new saint - and the gracious smiles and nods that I received from them in the midst of their sacred gathering. 


I said a prayer for the man and his community and found myself thinking: how appropriate - actually - to have a funeral on this holy day. After all, it reminds us: we are dust, and to dust we shall return. 


[As it turns out, it’s common for Catholics to hold a Funeral Mass on Ash Wednesday (note taken!).] 


Ash Wednesday is also the gateway to the season of Lent, which is a time of preparation for the day of Resurrection. 


We aren’t there, yet - but it’s coming.

 

In many ways, I feel like I’m in a similar season in my life and have been for many years now. I feel like I am awaiting a day of Resurrection, and it’s not here, yet - but I keep trusting that it’s coming. 


As I stood outside that worshiping community in Oaxaca, I thought of you, Church. I thought of the ways you have stood by me through my personal season of Lent. I thought of the ways we have done life together through its hardships and celebrations, the mundane bits and the extraordinary ones. 


I thought of the immense privilege of doing God’s ministry together and how you have ministered to me in so many ways in the past two and half years. 


In the past two months, I have accepted the gift of being on medical leave with great care, gratitude and intention. 


I have rested and moved my body, 

practiced solitude and being social, 

cried and laughed. 


And I have prayed, reflected and discerned a lot around this season of Lent - for the church, and in my own life.


All of this has led me to the decision to end my call as Associate Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools.


As I consider the ways in which we are called to surrender, I feel God leading me towards my next call in the church; beyond this personal season of Lent, and towards reconciliation.


I will go with faith and hope for the day of Resurrection.

I will go with immense gratitude for you and for God intertwining our paths.

I will go feeling love and care for you, beloved people of Trinity.

I will go trusting God’s continued work in and through each of us.


My last day at Trinity will be Sunday, March 17. Bishop Shelley (from the Northwest Washington Synod) will join us for worship and help lead a “Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the Conclusion of a Call.” I hope you can join for worship and the cake reception that will follow. 


In some ways, I hope that day can feel reminiscent of my experience in Oaxaca on Ash Wednesday. Not in the sense that I will feel like I’m intruding on a Funeral Mass (gosh, no!). I hope it can act as a space to gather as a community for worship; to grieve, to celebrate and to lean on the humble reminder that we are dust, and to dust we will return. 


I believe we are simultaneously broken and whole - as individuals, and as a church. We are incredibly fragile and remarkably resilient. We are sinners and we are saints. 


And we are in good hands, beloveds - because God delights in you and me. Jesus is LIVING proof of that.


We aren’t there, yet - but have faith: Resurrection is coming.


Pastor Jenna

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