One Sunday morning more than 14 years ago, my young daughter and I found ourselves in the St. Mark’s parking lot for our first visit. It was a few minutes past 10 a.m. and the only information I had was the time of the service, and the fact that the church had been highly recommended by two very different people. As we hurried across the parking lot, I hesitated briefly between the chapel and church buildings. As I stood there, peering around, my daughter tugged my hand and pointed to the sky. A small flock of parrots flew over our heads, calling out noisily, silhouetted against the bright blue sky. We watched as they flew up and landed briefly on the church roof and then disappeared out of sight. Avian angels?
My daughter looked up at me and asked “Do the birds come every week? Are they part of church?” She was clearly impressed, and I have to admit I was as well. I had been searching for a congregation, a spiritual home, but no place had yet resonated. So some small part of me hoped that the slightly otherworldly glimpse of the birds might be a sign of good things to come.
Given that we looked like tourists who had lost their map, Nancy Crewdson and her daughter Katie approached and welcomed us. After a brief chat, Nancy turned to her daughter and said “OK, Katie, why don’t you take Claire to Sunday school, and Maureen, come with me. We can talk after the services and I can answer any questions.” To my surprise, my normally shy daughter happily headed off with Katie and I entered the doors of St. Mark’s for the first time. We returned the next week and were quickly embraced by the myriad activities and groups. I was drawn into different commissions, attended forums and became actively involved in Outreach.
St. Mark’s has remained my home because it feeds two things – the inwardly directed spiritual growth and perspective that I need, as well as the outwardly directed opportunities to live the teachings of Jesus in the real world. I’m refreshed, with amazing regularity, by the wisdom of the sermons, and I’m inspired when I observe Outreach members, in the words of Mother Teresa, making many small things happen with great love.
I also served on the vestry for three years, (Matt can be very persuasive) and was impressed with the commitment and integrity of everyone involved in running this large and complex church community. It’s made making our annual pledge easy, because I can see both sides now – how the prosaic realities of fundraising help to create a spiritual home for all of us. The small gifts of grace that we receive at St. Mark’s (uplifting sermons, kind people, wild parrots) in turn have the potential to make the world a better place by making us better humans. It’s what I was seeking on that first visit. And that’s what our pledges make possible.