Yesterday was a genuine holiday. By that I mean, the morning started quietly. There were no cars on the road, their drivers heading to work. The early morning dog walkers in Lanesville slept in, too, so the sunrise quiet persisted. By about 8:00 a.m, children had started playing outside in our neighborhood, but not loudly. Our neighbors had decorated their fence with red-white-and blue bunting. And along the streets, American flags were out.
The day was spectacular, beautiful blue skies, but humid. By 9:30 a.m., one of our congregants had stopped by the parsonage on her bicycle to wish me a Happy Fourth. By 10:00 a.m., Plum Cove Beach was full of families, and the water, for once, was not bone-breaking cold. Sometimes I think I should just set up a booth on the beach, because I ran into some more members of the parish. We caught up on the parish news, and our discussion became very serious very quickly, as we lamented the way troubles sometimes seem to overwhelm some families.
As they talked to me, there on the sunny morning of the Fourth, I was grateful that I was there to hear them, and once again felt that most of the work of being a pastor gets done in these serendipitous meetings. You run into someone in a shop, or at a counter at the grocery store, or the beach, or the sidewalk, and suddenly you are in a serious, faithful, heart-wrenching discussion about life and death, or loss and sorrow, or a serious, faithful reflection on some blessed, happy event in their lives. These are brief, intense, and often amazing conversations. In those times, I think being a parish pastor is the best job in the world. Our discussion on the beach ended with a decision to start holding occasional services there on a Sunday evening!
And the day continued to unfold with similar conversations. By 2:00 p.m, I had at least five of those conversations in one place or another, and felt the happiness that deep friendship lends such meetings. In the afternoon at a cook-out, some guests discussed their desire to find their way back to going to church regularly, and they offered brief synopses of their spiritual lives, how they were raised, how and why they stopped attending church, and now, why they were thinking about returning.
In the early evening, someone from New Zealand, at another July 4th cook-out expressed an interest in seeing the New Zealand Prayer Book. I brought it with me, for him to look at, and we both marveled at the beautiful language, then laughed because he hadn’t expected to be doing theology on July 4th.
Just before our local parade started around 6:00 p.m, the heavens opened with a crash, and a thunderstorm barreled through, lightening the humidity, drenching the parade-goers, and the marchers. No one seemed to mind. It had been a very hot afternoon. I watched some of the soaked revelers, happily chatting in the street in the downpour, their hair and clothes dripping.
When the skies cleared, small outbursts of fireworks went off in the neighborhood, and my cats and I sat inside, listening to the rain end between the sharp staccato of firecrackers and the rumble of distant thunder. It was a wonderful 4th, but the best parts were the surprise meetings on the way. I love the name of our people in the early church: The People of the Way, or more literally, the people of the road, traveling together, pilgrims and sojourners on the journey of faith. There are travel companions everywhere, ready for chance meetings. Happy Day after the Fourth. May you meet some faithful travelers on your way today.