Love Letter To Hickory Bend

I miss you.  I miss my church family.  I miss Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, cleaning the bathrooms, and even the rowdy UMYF.  I miss you.

I didn’t quite realize when I suddenly accepted a job in East Tennessee how rarely I would be home or how much I would miss being with you. How often have we sung John Fawcett’s great hymn, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds?”
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
We have done a lot of living and dying together, and I miss being with you.  I miss being there for celebrations, and even more, I miss being there to share the sorrows.  I haven’t had to carry a burden alone since I became a part of Hickory Bend UMC. I united with Hickory Bend, and my life has been so much richer for it. Even though we are still in communication, I know that if I were there, we could actually extend the right hand of Christian fellowship, we would hug, we would pass the Peace.  The Peace that passes all understanding.  I miss you.
I miss you especially because we are in tough times.  We have had them before, and we will face them again. There have been long periods of time when I did not feel entirely comfortable at Hickory Bend. Those times were difficult, but I continued to come and participate for various reasons. The times I remember with the most pain were when I was uncomfortable with style or priorities. Even with that discomfort, I came to realize that our problems did not threaten my faith or threaten to come between God and me. I had to ask myself what was central to my relationship to God and to our part of His Church. I had to ask myself what God was trying to teach me in those times.  Was I open enough to a differing opinion?  Could my ability to worship be threatened by someone else’s style or even a basic theological difference? No, I finally concluded, the Holy Spirit moving in our midst and bringing us together was much more important than the trappings and practices of a worship service, whether or not I was comfortable with them. After all, God did not lead the Israelites into the wilderness to make them comfortable, but to shape them into His people, able and eager to do His will.
Now I am asking how God is leading us as we move toward 2013. Perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to grow in our own ministry as a congregation of the faithful. It is dangerous to assume that the way we do things at Hickory Bend is the only way God wants them done. Maybe, in Susan’s interaction with us, God is giving her fresh insight into her abilities or an opportunity to broaden in her ministry. Maybe Hickory Bend is the whetstone on which God is honing His tools — the heart of our new minister and our own hearts. With God’s help and our own willingness to listen to God, we will certainly all learn and grow together.
As we watch our brothers and sisters in Sandy Hook begin the long arduous process of pulling their lives back together, we may gain perspective on our own current problems.  Life at Hickory Bend has been and continues to be the complex and sometimes painful opportunity for us to work out our salvation together.  But, “We shall still be joined in heart and hope to meet again.”  Let us remember we worship the Prince of Peace.
Merry Christmas, my beloved friends.  Let us join in the hope of a very happy New Year.  Grace, Peace, Love, and HOPE!  Emalie

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