Advent Teaches Us Patience

Dec 13, 2016

Rev. Dean W. Bucalos, Executive Director of Mission Behind Bars and Beyond and Founding Pastor of New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

The Advent season teaches us to be patient.  It instructs us on the importance of waiting prayerfully.  It reminds us that God’s goodness unfolds in God’s time and not ours. 

Perhaps the greatest lesson that emerges during Advent each year comes as we watch and listen to Mary and Joseph respond to God’s incredible actions.  Both agreed to move out of their own comfort zones and to faithfully surrender to the will of God.

New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a bit different than most PCA congregations.  Its home is inside a women’s detention facility where about 80 women, most of whom have been paroled, await release upon the completion of a six month substance abuse program.  Being the pastor of such a congregation takes a lot of patience and perseverance. It tests one’s faith. Because residents stay only six months, worship attendance ebbs and flows. 

In June, we called a new pastor.  This was her first church and she was warmly welcomed by the members of New Life in Christ.  Each Tuesday evening (the night we have our worship services), the seats in our make shift sanctuary were filled.  However, before too long, attendance began to drop.  Some turmoil in the facility. Some graduations.  Some indifference.  It is always hard to put your finger on the reasons why.  I could tell Carol was beginning to worry. Was it her?  Was she doing something wrong?  What’s the problem? 

We met.  I reassured her it wasn’t her, it was just the uncomfortable nature of this ministry.  She needed to be patient.  Good things happen in God’s time. I offered to come and lead a healing service. It was something we never had done.  It might be what the congregation needed.

The attendance was light.  I shared a story about the first time I had participated in a healing service early in my ministry and the uncertainty that went along with that.  We blessed the oil and I invited anyone who wanted to be anointed to come forward.  If one or two came forward, I would have been pleased.  To my surprise, as I moved to the center aisle, everyone in the room got to their feet and fell in line.   The sign of the cross was gently made upon each forehead as woman after woman was anointed for healing. 

After the last person came forward, Pastor Carol turned to be anointed and what we witnessed was a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven where there are no boundaries or zones of comfort.  Just grace.  Quietly, everyone in the room came forward to lay hands on their pastor. 

As the Advent season began, and Pastor Carol prepared to lead the congregation in an Advent lighting liturgy, the seats began to fill up.  Over fifty people, both residents and outside visitors came to worship.  Three women joined the church.

Pastor Carol experienced the joy and mystery of being part of a prison congregation.  Patience.  Prayerful waiting.  Surrender.   And blessing upon blessing.  All in God’s time.

 

 



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