“Behold, I am doing a new thing; / now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? / I will make a way in the wilderness / and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
When my alarm clock rang this morning, I hit snooze and rolled over. But before I could go back to sleep, an anxious thought stole across my mind leaving me wide awake: things will never be the same at Rayne.
I remember the first time I attended church at Rayne. I was struck by the beauty of the building. The rich creams and golds of the ornate woodwork, the elegant stained glass windows, the deep red of the carpet and the pew cushions. I remember the comfort of the reverberating organ and those old familiar hymns after having visited several churches with contemporary praise music. But what I remember the most is the magnetism of Callie, the pastor. Love and grace poured forth from her sermon like a warm blanket. After the service when she greeted my roommate Sarah Jean and me, her smile made even a sunny New Orleans day a shade more brilliant. I remember telling Sarah Jean, “This is it.” I had found my church home.
I had no idea then how big of a role Rayne was to play in my life over the next nearly ten years. I have Rayne to thank for some of the best friends a girl could ask for (and a few ex-boyfriends). I have Rayne to thank for leadership experience I’ve gained as I’ve helped to create a community of young adults within our church. I have Rayne to thank for the deeper connection I have with God and a stronger understanding of the Bible and theology. I have Rayne to thank for a stronger connection to my community with all the opportunities for service Rayne provides. I hardly recognize the me I was ten years ago. God’s message of love and grace has seeped into my soul - sown, watered, and lovingly shined on over the years by the sermons and the example of Callie and our associate pastor Max. Today I’m bolder, braver, and more loving. I’m also on a lot more committees!
One committee I’ve had the benefit of being on during these transitions is the Staff Parish Relations committee, or the human resources committee for the church. I learned a couple of months before the rest of the congregation that Callie, who has been at Rayne for 14 years, would retire this summer and we would receive a new lead pastor. Our committee had the opportunity to meet our new pastor last week, and I’m really encouraged by his warmth and humility. However, that’s not the extent of the changes! Last week our committee was alerted only a few hours before the rest of the church that Max, who has been at Rayne for at least the last 10 years that I’ve attended, has been assigned to be the lead pastor at a church in Lafayette, Louisiana starting this summer, too. And that’s still not all! We learned just two days ago that Amanda, our church intern, who is pure delight and who has become a good friend of mine, is being assigned elsewhere for next year, too.
It all feels like too much! My head is swirling from all the changes and transitions! I’m so happy for Callie as she nears her retirement. She has many bucket-list items that she and her husband have been longing to tackle for years, and I love imagining her on all sorts of adventures. (Also, Callie, if you’re reading this please, please create a book of your sermons. I want to purchase at least 10 copies.) I’m also happy for Max. An appointment as a lead pastor is very well deserved, and his new congregation is blessed to have him. And of course, I’m excited for Amanda who just passed her interviews with the Louisiana Board of Ordained Ministry and eagerly awaits her very first pastoral appointment. But it’s difficult to imagine Rayne without them. Not one of them will be there to greet us on Sunday, July 2. The future feels like a cold, darkened sanctuary with precious memories echoing just out of reach, haunting the hallways of our 145-year-old church. What will it be like? Will people still come? Will Rayne be just as dear to me over the next ten years?
I’m clinging to two quotes right now that Callie often shares in her sermons. The first is from the endearingly optimistic and aptly named Sonny, a hotel owner in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: “Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end!" The second quote is from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century mystic who I first read as an English Major at UVA. Julian writes in one of her most famous passages: “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Yes. Everything will be all right! All shall be well. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Rayne, it’s that our God is a conqueror of empty tombs, a tamer of the wilderness, a master sculptor of even the most nondescript clay, a gardener skilled at bringing forth life from barren earth. “Behold,” God says in Isaiah 43:19, “I am doing a new thing; / now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? / I will make a way in the wilderness / and rivers in the desert.” Let it be done according to God’s will.
Yes, things will never be the same at Rayne, and I can’t always “perceive” what God is up to. But I trust that God isn’t done with us yet. Not ever. And for that I’m truly grateful.
I’d like to close this post in a prayer.
Thank you for the amazing gift of Callie and Max and Amanda. Thank you for their leadership and faithful service that have helped create an extraordinary community at Rayne and that have transformed so many lives, including mine. I trust that you will travel with them as they move on from Rayne and continue to use them to bless others. God, I pray for our church members. Help us to be patient and at peace as we enter this new chapter. Give us the wisdom to know our role in this time of transition, and give us the courage to fulfill it faithfully. Amen.
Thanks for reading.