As I approach ninety, I realize this might the last time they ask me to do this—whatever “this” is. When Bruce and I were married in 1951 and moved to Charlotte, we heard about a church meeting at Queens College and decided that would become our new church home. It was really out of our comfort zone—but a brand new, just starting place where we could worship, study, serve and maybe contribute. Finding this new “comfort zone” reminded me of one of my very special days at Billingsville elementary. A lovely young lady named Armagon Zojaji joined our Kindergarten class from some far away country in the Middle East. I held her in my lap and explained that she might not understand the words we said but she soon would. At lunch that day my boys and girls put their trays away and sat on the low windowsill to wait until we were all finished. The young man who sat right beside our new young friend came over to me, pulled my sleeve and said, “guess what teacher—she laughs in the same language we do.” That helped all of our comfort zones.
After Trinity moved into our new facilities on Providence Road, a large seminary sent visitors looking for a church in which to place one of their student interns. They sent a letter the next week saying they chose Trinity because it seemed to them a church “going into the future with banners unfurled.” He came and we did.
Somewhere along our way, a minister shared his belief that our giving should be directly related to what we had been given or had received in this life. That was a new way of looking at things that seemed to make a lot of sense to us. If we had received, then we freely give.
As years passed, we read many books by Frederick Buechner. His books spoke to us and we invited him to go to Montreat with us. He very graciously told us that he thought he could best serve from his mountaintop in Vermont. We respected that, but having read his unusual novel about a most unusual preacher, Leo Bebb, and his old friend, Herman Redpath, an old Native American man on his way to the Happy Hunting Ground—definitely out of his comfort zone—my friend Betty McLaney and I retreated to our workshop. Our idea was to make for our Vermont friend a replica of the good luck pouch carried by Redpath to make safe his trip. There had been in the recent Christian Century magazine a small ad announcing the meeting in Bangor, Maine of the Presbyterian Synod the last week in January….with Frederick Buechner as the speaker. The perfect place to deliver the pouch to insure the safe travel of Mr. B . So, to duplicate it we located the small box of SunMaid raisins, the ten play money ten dollar bills, the Native American necklace, Betty’s Dad’s jack knife and the bird’s wing that we had reconstructed from the playground at Billingsville. We put the wing in the bag, put the bag in Dr. Patrick’s hands, got him to the plane after church on Sunday and waited. In Bangor, he attended the meeting, saw Mr. B in a room before his talk, tossed the bag into the chair beside him without a word, and the rest is history.
That fall in Montreat when Mr. B told this story, he said he knew that one way or another he would find his way to this group of people who were willing to do such wild and wonderful things.
Being part of Trinity has given me all sorts of glorious challenges, and, therefore, it has been my privilege to give with joy my time, my worldly good, and my life.
So, watch for a quotation that appears regularly in the Narthex and has for many years. It will say:
My question is this: Are there in us, in you and me now, that recklessness of the loving heart, that wild courage, that shuddering faithfulness even unto the end of the world through which new things could come to pass? – Frederick Buechner
Could it possibly be that some good can come from that infamous comfort zone? Just maybe that’s where we’ll find the flickering light of NEW THINGS.