[In case we haven’t corresponded very recently, here’s a quick explanation to catch you up: Jeremy was recently offered a part-time job and pastoral internship of sorts at a church in Oak Park, a small city that borders the west side of Chicago, not too far from our home. We thought and prayed long and hard about accepting the position which would mean leaving our church, a move we thought (and hoped) we wouldn’t have to make so soon. In the end we felt sure that God was leading us to Calvary for this next season of our lives.]
Two days ago was our last Sunday at Covenant: heavy words to type, and to re-read. We’re not moving. We live close to Covenant-going friends. But I realized recently that Covenant has been more of a home to us than any other church Jeremy and I have been a part of.
I still remember the very first time we went. It was a drizzly June Sunday. We were spending the weekend in Chicago to look for apartments; we had just made a rather last-minute, life-altering decision to move across the country from LA. After the service, we ventured over to the coffee hour that was mentioned in church. I was eager for bagels. And coffee. But getting coffee and bagels took about three seconds, and before long we were standing by ourselves, awkwardly gazing around at a sea of unfamiliar faces. Probably right as we were looking particularly awkward and alone, three girls that looked about our age meandered over to us and introduced themselves. Their names were Abby, Erin, and Trisha. I loved all of them immediately. I walked out of church thinking to myself, “I could totally be friends with those girls.” When we moved to Chicago a month later, Erin invited us to a BBQ at her place our very first weekend in the neighborhood, and her husband ended up living in our house before they got married last summer. We’ve been friends and co-small group leaders with Abby for the past two and a half years. And Trisha and her husband live on our second floor, and are some of our dearest friends in Chicago.
Living in Los Angeles was a special season for us. We were newly married, figuring out how to have a home, and enjoying exploring a new city. But with most of our closest friends a lengthy distance from our home, I never felt a total sense of meaningful community in Echo Park.
Chicago was different. Covenant was different. This church quickly became a home. The people quickly became like family. And for the past two and a half years, Covenant has provided for us life and friends and a meaningful place in God’s family that is the Church.
I happened to do worship this last Sunday, which meant I was in both services. I hung on every word that was spoken, paid careful attention to every line of each song we sang. I wanted those two hours to last forever. I was keenly aware that, while we’d be close by and of course back to visit, this was the last time we’d sit in those pews with these people from this place in our lives. While the road ahead is surely laid by God, a bit of loss always accompanies change, and that’s the bitter part of this bittersweet transition. I suppose there’s also something very sweet about how much we’ve come to find rest and a home in this church. It’s hard to leave, but oh so sweet to have been there at all.
Sunday night Jeremy and I laid awake in bed, just listing off the names of people from our church, talking about how great we think they are.
What a blessing it has been to be a part of this body of believers. There will be plenty of time ahead to praise God for the work we know he’ll do in the future. For now, I am thankful to the ends of the Earth for how he’s brought us here, and blessed us through the people of Covenant Presbyterian Church.
In closing, I’m reminded of a song we sing each week with our friends at the Ivy at the end of our service. And while we will surely see our Covenant friends again soon, I think it’s somewhat appropriate: