I got an email the other day from a friend of a friend who is now a friend himself. (Isn’t it great how that works?)
It’s been exciting to keep up with Tim as he explores the possibility of a vocational call to ministry in the Episcopal priesthood, especially since we Baptists don’t use fancy words like “postulant” (but we do enjoy opportunities to throw them around so we might appear extra spiritual).
Tim’s recent email was kind of like a note passed in Junior High gushing about the cute guy in the third row of Algebra class (not that I ever sent such notes, of course).
Tim shared an essay he’d written describing his feelings attending worship at a church where he’s been assigned to help out. (Not sure what the official Episcopal term for this stage of the game is, but I am quite sure whatever it is it sounds very holy.)
I smiled when I read Tim’s enthusiastic, optimistic observations of church life in a small parish. He used words like: young, energetic, friendly, nurturing, love, community . . . even blessed.
And then, as I read, I felt startled for a moment. Startled because, you see, it has been about ten years (nine next month, to be exact) since I was ordained myself. It’s been awhile since the note-passing admiration and first flush promise of the pastorate filled my life and hopes for the future. But when I read Tim’s essay I felt startled to realize . . . I still feel it.
I recognized the feeling again when I read Tim’s report. For me, however, it’s not best described as a feeling. It’s more of a smell. (Could that be because I’m a Baptist and our associations are not as sophisticated as “feelings”? Hmmmm.)
It’s the association I automatically have with that special smell . . . of the Fellowship Hall. You know that smell? It’s kind of a floor wax/casserole/dusty furniture/glue and coffee smell, and every church I have ever been a part of smells a little like that.
I can’t explain it but the smell calls to mind just what Tim was describing, a few strong, sure feelings: security, warmth, love . . . it’s the smell of a place that will always enfold me no matter what . . . it’s Eau de Jesus.
I told Tim it was my wish as a parent that my children leave my house knowing that when they feel that feeling (or smell that smell) they will have those instant associations that church brings to mind for me and for Tim.
And I realized that this is also my wish as a pastor–that the churches where I serve would be empowered to give off that special Eau de Jesus, so that everyone who walks in the door for the first time–or for going on 60+ years in the case of some of our members–would get a feeling that steals over them like the old familiar smell of the Fellowship Hall, and that they would know they are enfolded in the love of God.