Less than two weeks ago, I attended a wedding of old friends in the sanctuary my congregation calls home.
And the afternoon after that I was back in that sanctuary yet again for the funeral of one of our long-time members.
Three days in a row, three different purposes, one church family.
Sometimes the connections within a community of faith astound me, and sometimes I don't know how people get along without such connections.
The man who got married was an old friend whose wife died more than two years ago. I taught some of their kids Sunday school years ago. His bride was also a long-time church friend. Her husband died years ago and had been part of a breakfast-prayer group I've been a member of for about 30 years.
The weekly worship service was full of friends, some of whom I've known since I joined the church more than 35 years ago.
The funeral was for the mother of a woman who served with me on our most recent (2010) pastor search committee.
Each of us has different approaches to theology, worship and other matters of a religious nature. But we allow each other the space for those differences and we do our best to remember that we are part of a larger family rooted in God's love for us and our always-inadequate response to that love.
As I left the funeral -- one at which the casket was present -- I said to another old friend that she just witnessed what the sanctuary will look like when it's time for my own funeral (years from now, I hope). I find comfort in knowing that when I need them, my church family will be there for me. As they have been for most of four decades.
(The photo here today shows the west side of our church building dressed up to commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.)
* * *
WHAT SHAPED MANDELA
As South Africans and world leaders gather today to say farewell to Nelson Mandela, here's a piece that will tell you a bit more about how religion influenced his remarkable life.
* * *
P.S.: My latest Presbyterian Outlook column now is online. To read it, click here.