Tuesday, September 11, 2007
you can't go home again
A little over five years ago we left Albany, NY to head to another planet - Santa Barbara. Albany had been our home for 14 years and Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1 block from the capital building, was our faith community. John was born in Albany and Alexis spent the most important formative years of her early life there. We had a fantastic house. My spouse, Cheryl and I worked together and found our relationship both stretched and challenged by spending that much time with each other. The Emmanuel community taught us more than I can even begin to say about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They played a critical role in shaping who I am now.
It is a church with significant ministries in the city. Together with 1st Pres, Westminster Pres, Israel AME, Trinity Methodist, and MCC of the Hudson Valley, they form the FOCUS churches of the Capital Hill. Those 6 churches feed over 100 people a day in their winter breakfast program, run a food pantry that serves hundreds of families a month, do important advocacy work, and have played a central role in virtually every important social issue that has faced the city of Albany.
EBC is a diverse congregation. It is racially, culturally, and economically mixed. Seeing the variety of colors sitting in the sanctuary or sharing at table is a wonderful reflection of God's kindom.
Leaving Emmanuel was one of the most difficult moves that I have ever made. I loved the people, enjoyed the work, and felt as if we were accomplishing good things there. It truly was our home. Still, it was time to leave. There were tasks that needed to be done that I could not lead.
This past Sunday we went back to visit Emmanuel for the first time since we left. A number of older members had died and were conspicuously absent. There were new faces including a number of children. There were old friends whom I deeply love and miss. It was bitter sweet but it was good. I see that God is at work and the current pastor has led the congregation in directions that I could not. Seeds that we had planted are growing and new directions were evident.
I also saw that I have gone in new directions and that the time in Santa Barbara has helped me to grow in new ways. My children have both discovered new directions and Cheryl has taken on a new and deeply moving ministry as a chaplain in a hospice organization. And we all have new friends whom we love.
It is said that you can't go home again. I guess it is partly true... Emmanuel is not my home any longer and at this point it wouldn't be good for them or for me if it was. Still... you can visit... and the visit was wonderful.