Touchstone: Return to Love
Return to Love
by Elisa Stone Minister of Congregational Care
The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. —Galatians 5:6
Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and [God’s] love is perfected in us. —1 John 4:7-8, 12
When I received the word, in June of 2014 that DCC’s personnel decided to hire me as your Minster of Congregational Care I felt absolutely thrilled and scared out of my mind! My background had been in early childhood education. I owned my own preschool/daycare for 20 years, was an executive director of a preschool for homeless and low-income children in Woodland. I taught parenting classes and was and still am an instructor for UC Davis Extension in the Center for Childhood Excellence. I knew kids, and family dynamics, backward and forwards. Care for a whole church community? Not so much.
I have had my own life experiences that blessed me with some insights into the value of compassion. At 17 I lost my only big brother to a brain tumor; at 26 my first son died at 10 days old; at 30 I lost my mom to cancer and at 44 I cared for my father in my home until his death due to dementia. My husband suffers from alcohol addiction and is in recovery. I have raised four kids, two adopted from foster care and one with special needs. I do have life experience, but I feared that I wasn’t enough. Don’t we often think we are lacking in some way?
I sat in the sanctuary the morning after getting the phone call from the Personnel Committee and before it was announced to all of you and thought…. all these people, how could “small me” possibly help them? How could I walk through illness, loss, pain, and even death with so many of you? I panicked, my heart raced as I faced the reality of what DCC was asking me to do. I closed my eyes, deeply breathed and prayed, “Spirit, help me, help me to know how to do this job, how to be Jesus’ ears, arms, heart.” My pulse slowed and I felt this sentiment enter my soul… “Just love.”
I also felt concerned because I was taking a job without knowing who the head pastor would be. Feeling scattered, I decided to re-read the book “Return to Love” by Marian Williamson. I let go of expectations and walked into my job with one intention and that was to prioritize being love to our congregation, our community and to myself. To be the love God so generously gives in the world. That stance sustains me. It also taught me to trust in God’s goodness to bring DCC a pastor who would have similar priorities. I let go and trusted. Since being trained in spiritual direction, a three-year program held at the Mercy Center Burlingame, I have also learned a great deal about shadow, trauma and deeper listening. Like an onion, I peel back layer after layer of how deeply I can live in self-compassion and compassion for all of you. Today I wake excited to be with you all, to work on ways DCC can support deep and meaningful, joyful and even playful soul work.
I value this quote from Brian McLaren, from his most recent book, The Great Spiritual Migration:
Could it be that now is the time, at long last, for Christians to migrate to the vision shared by its original founder and his original followers? . . . If Christian faith can be redefined in this way, if our prime contribution to humanity can be shifted from teaching correct beliefs to practicing the way of love as Jesus taught, then our whole understanding and experience of the church could be transformed . . . [into] a school of love.
What I believe can and should happen is that tens of thousands of congregations will become what I call “schools” or “studios” of love. . . . What I care about is whether they are teaching people to live a life of love, from the heart, for God, for all people (no exceptions), and for all creation. . . .
We do prioritize creating and experiencing a life of love here at DCC. The staff is such multifaceted people, who also prioritize love for you, one another and self. Our pastor….well I don’t have to tell you how much he brings to our community! I am so proud to call him colleague and friend. I fully trust that our next associate pastor will bring to us just what we need as well. This is a peace that sustains and calms my soul and, I hope, yours too.
When I get scared or stuck, I return to love. This is my prayer for all of you. If you need to process such things in your own life or if the holidays bring sadness, please come and let’s get together over a nice cup of tea. There is never a limit on the amount of love we can show one another, I have lots and lots for each of you, and I deeply thank you for the love you regularly gift to me as well.
Elisa Stone, Minister of Congregational Care
firstname.lastname@example.org / 530-0753-2894 ext.106