Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A call to serve

I am the proud former wife of a servicemember. He served 15 years of his life in the US Army - they didn't ask, and he didn't tell - another story for another day.

Today, Barack Obama has issued a call to serve - the military, Peace Corps, wherever we can find a need that should be filled in our communities, at home and globally. Hand in hand with that goes his desire to expand faith-based initiatives. He does not speak of the ultra right-wing conservative groups who have latched on to this program en masse under the Bush era, rather a sweeping level of access - yes, even to his own United Church of Christ and possibly even that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the church of his apparent opponent on the VP ticket - Mitt Romney.

I have ties to both of these churches. I was an active member of the LDS faith for some 23 years - yes, another long story for another day - and am now working at The Church in the Highlands in White Plains New York.

What are the differences between these two churches? On the surface, not many, but let's examine this further.

The LDS Church has thousands of missionaries - those who proseletyze, and those who serve in temples, those who live in the splendor of the mission president home and the elders and sisters who live in tiny one room apartments. Those who serve welfare missions building bridges in third world countries, those who step in after a disaster when the US Government fails.

The Church in the Highlands has no missionaries that I have seen - at least, none that wear nametags and go door-to-door. They do, however show up in my office regularly - to take the newsletter to the mail, after collating and stuffing by hand - a tedious job for the most devoted of the Savior's followers. They call the office when they hear of a new baby or a death or a hospitalization of one of their fellow congregants. They come to be with me in the office to help me with office tasks when I need a little help. They make bank deposits, and watch over the children, clean the church and a myriad of other tasks seen and unseen.

They are connected under the love and care of an amazing woman, the Reverend Melanie Miller. They are planning a community garden, a morning of learning how to can, learning to shop efficiently and locally, taking advantage of the farmer's market and eating locally grown produce. They are instituting movie night where everyone from the community is welcome. They have weekly bible study and meditation and recently watched "For the Bible Tells me So" - I am sure that the discussion was thoughtful and deeply insightful.

They are some old, some young - their attendance has doubled under Reverend Miller's careful tugelage this last year since they snatched her up from a congregation in Chappaqua.

They trade old books and magazines, volunteer at the food pantry and have a resale shop where items can be procured at little cost for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

The church is a beautiful edifice - recently a pew was removed after careful deliberation in order to accomodate young families with little ones, strollers, and those with wheelchairs.

No matter where you are on your journey, you are welcome there.

Their faith is old, their thinking is not.

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