Studies With Charlotte

I still remember the phone call.

Somewhere around my third day in the office figuring out what it meant to be Pastor Kim in this community with these people, I received a phone call. The local Baptist pastor, called to welcome me to the community. He apologized for the late notice and invited me to the weekly clergy text study. In one hour.

“We’d love to have you join us. We meet every Wednesday for an hour followed by lunch. We study the upcoming scripture readings.”

Since it was only my third day in the office and my to-do list was non-existent, I gladly accepted the invitation. Each week a different pastor takes turns hosting the study. The host for the day welcomes everyone to their church, offers snacks, leads the discussion, and makes the all important decision of where to eat lunch. That first study, I vividly remember putting the church’s address into Google Maps and writing down the directions. We were meeting at Immanuel United Church of Christ; the church with the big red door I was told by the secretary as I hurried out. I was eager to meet my colleagues and have the support of pastors, but nervous at the prospect of meeting so many new people at once. Nervous about being welcome and valued, nervous that there was, at that time, only one other woman who attended. But off I went.

I went that first week, and I continue to go every week.

Like any Bible study our hour together takes the following shape: we pray, we read the text, we laugh, we walk in late, we take side notes and detours, we reference pop culture and daily news, we go on tangents, we share stories and experiences, and somehow through it all, God shows up. Over and over again. We inspire one another and are inspired by the One who brought this group together. There hasn’t been one study that I didn't leave without a nugget of info, or a new perspective, or a sermon illustration. There hasn’t been one study that I didn’t give thanks for not being the only one simultaneously struggling and thriving as a pastor. In addition, thanks to some of the men in our study, there isn’t a study that goes by where I don’t learn something about country music or golf. We share mishaps and lessons along the way. We laugh at the craziness that this call sometimes brings to our lives.

Anything goes when we are together. And everything is sacred and holy.

It’s a jam-packed hour diving into the four texts many of us follow in worship. It’s an hour getting to the heart of our faith. An hour getting to the heart of our call as disciples of Christ.

Over the last five years our colleagues have come and gone. We’ve grieved deaths in our community and celebrated love and new life among us. But we continue to meet week after week. We come from different backgrounds, denominations, and faith perspectives. Our schooling varies. Our congregations vary. And so our call to study and proclaim the Good News found in Jesus Christ keeps us coming back week after week. We share God’s word and our words of prayer together; we are bound together.

Now my daughter, Charlotte, has become a member of our group. From the age of 3 months she’s been joining the study with my husband and I. I guess it’s to be expected for the daughter of a clergy couple. At first she slept or nursed during the study. Sometimes she fidgeted in our laps, playing with the pages of our bibles. Now as a toddler she walks all around the room. If we’re in a church’s library she’ll find books to read. If there are cabinets and drawers she has to see what’s inside. We bring her toys and she toddles around with them, coming to sit on our lap for a bite of the day’s snack. Now there are some studies that I don’t come away with anything, other than keeping objects out of Charlotte’s mouth! But I trust that Charlotte is getting something out of our time together. Charlotte is our youngest theologian.

I can’t help but give thanks for her welcome and participation at each study. She gets to hear God’s word, she sees us pray together, she overhears our discussion. Isn’t that how it begins? Isn’t this faith formation at it’s earliest?

I have to believe and pray that Charlotte will intimately and intuitively know that the Bible is for her. That it is her book, too. For her to read, wrestle with, challenge, and love. I’m only beginning to get a glimpse of how much Charlotte takes in from our actions. So it gives me hope that I’ve found this faith community to help me model faith formation. Charlotte sees our colleagues come together throughout the church year. At the heart of our time together, God’s word and the love which it pours out for the world are Charlotte’s to know and love.