Today I want to extend a special welcome to my first ever guest blogger, the Rev Megan Huston. I hope you enjoy.
Yesterday, between stopping in for a quick visit with two shut-in members and shuffling my girls to dance class, I stopped at another church member’s house who told me she had made some soup for my family.
When I arrived she filled a large Amazon box with food she bought for us. She heard me mention that I hadn’t made it to the grocery this week (it was only Monday – don’t judge) and proceeded to fill the box with food we love and that my toddlers will eat: strawberries and blueberries which she apologized weren’t organic because she couldn’t find any (are you kidding me?!), two large green salads (like really good ones with spinach and arugula), homemade white chili, a full rotisserie chicken, a box of pastries (“because these are really good and you need to try them”), and, oh yeah, a plate of iron skillet jalapeno cornbread made by her husband (that’s right boys – cooking ain’t just for church ladies anymore!).
As I put my 3-year-old wiggly twins into their car seats after dance I said, “Do you smell that? Someone made us dinner tonight, and it is your favorite!” I drove home after a long day of work, and instead of feeling anxious about how I would cook and entertain my 3-year-olds at the same time, I felt nothing but love as I breathed in the amazing aromas in my car.
This week we will celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I’ve seen a lot of ideas about how couples can celebrate their love. I’ve watched on the morning news suggestions of Valentine’s Day beer holders, puzzles made from a picture of your face, and beef jerky shaped into roses that you can purchase for the low price of fifty bucks. As I think about love this week, I am reminded not only of how much I love my spouse, my children, and my friends, but also how much I love my church.
As I packed a salad and fresh fruit for lunch this morning, I realized that the church has taught me much of what I know about love – the kind of love that stands by you in the dark, that sees you without your makeup on and doesn’t run, the kind of love that has grit. It is a love that Jesus spoke of when he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is a love that encourages us to live in “gratitude for what we had instead of resentment of what we’ve lost,” something a grieving church member said to me the other day.
While I have a lot of love to celebrate, this morning I can’t stop thinking about my great love story with the Church.
Like just a few weeks ago when I announced from the pulpit that a beloved 28-year-old in our church family passed away unexpectedly, I cried like a baby in front of everyone. After church one of my elders who is a hospice chaplain texted and asked, “I noticed you were upset. Would you like to have coffee this week?” I didn’t end up having time, but I thought about that offer so many times, and felt it like I was wrapped in love, like a blanket on a cold winter morning. A few days later, after the funeral, another member presented me with a box of food which contained a homemade meal for my family that night.
This morning, I am thinking of my first church in Paris, Tennessee, which empowered me to lead without micromanaging me. Sometimes I wonder what they were thinking. I was just 25, fresh out of seminary and had minimal experience leading a church. When I told them that two weeks maternity leave wasn’t going to work for my family during negotiations, they said, “Ok, what do you need?” and then wrote it into my contract. I’ll never forget several months later, when I went to visit the son of Joe Casey, who was in the final stages of ALS. The hospice staff came in as I was leaving and Joe said, “No wait, you need to learn about this.” How in the world he was thinking about my pastoral formation while going through the most painful moment of his life I still don’t understand, but I am grateful. Joe Casey’s son was the first funeral I ever led, and as scared as I was, I knew I could do it because Joe told me so.
When I left that church to accept the call to First Christian Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky, I worried if things would be the same. They weren’t the same, but I found a church full of people who loved me and my family without condition. When I was pregnant with the twins and was sick every single day of my pregnancy, a member showed up to the office with dinner (are you catching a theme here?), which included a fruit salad and was basically the only thing I could eat all week. As I savored each bite, I saw light at the end of the tunnel and thought, “Ok God, I can do this.”
Here’s the thing: Ministry can be devastatingly difficult at times. As pastors, we stay too late at church because, in many ways, it is a great love affair. We believe in our congregations, and sometimes we put them before our own families.
But, at its best, the relationship between pastors and churches can be a precious gift.
To my two beloveds: First Christian of Paris and Bowling Green, thank you for loving me and my family so well. Thank you for telling me to go home when I’ve stayed at church too late. Thank you for making me laugh when I am taking myself much too seriously, like when you made a “Certificate of Entitlement to Act Like A Normal Person,” framed it and presented it to me at an elders meeting. Thank you for sticking by me when God placed a vision on my heart for our community that came with risks.
And to those pastors whose hearts have been broken by the church: I see you. I’ve experienced church members who treat you like “hired help.” It is with deep gratitude that my two churches have not allowed people to be in leadership who do not respect the gifts and time of the pastor. I’ve experienced PTSD from horrible things my church members have said to me, even though I feel weak for saying it outloud. For those of you who are in the trenches in a “pastor-eating” congregation, I am so sorry for what you face daily. I am praying for you, that God will send you an angel who will show up with both comfort food and a healthy salad.
And to the wider church: when you love your pastors well, we notice. When you abuse us, we are never the same, because we have not just clocked in hours at our churches, we have carved out a space in our hearts for you.
To you, beloveds, who have stood up for us in board meetings and had our backs when people in the community spread rumors – thank you.
To you, who support us in the quirkiest of ways (I once received a cow as a gift in rural Paris, TN) – thank you.
And to you, whom I have been blessed to call mine and make up this great love story, you have touched my life in ways so that it will never be the same. You have helped me to see that ministry is not a chore but a gift, and for that I will always be grateful.
You have demonstrated that love is so much more than one day, one gesture, one gift. You have taught me that it is an ongoing commitment and conversation to seek God in one another. You have taught me what true love is. I love you.
Reverend Megan Huston
Rev. Megan Severns Huston is the wife of a banjo playing stay-at-home dad and farmer (Willie), and the Senior Minister of First Christian Church of Bowling Green, Ky. Megan and her family live on 13 beautiful acres in Rockfield, Ky., and hope to leave their land better than they found it. Megan is motivated to find balance in her roles as mom and minister and sees her call to ministry rooted in community organizing, caring for people and preaching.