Today was the last day for my friend Erin and me at our Ministry in Context — “MIC” — site. We bid a fond farewell to the bilingual congregation we’ve been serving part-time in the western suburbs of Chicago for most of the last nine months. Even though we only got to spend seven or eight hours a week in the church, we really started getting to know people and building relationships with members of the congregation. It was bittersweet to leave when it feels like we’ve barely begun.
Probably my favorite moment of the day was a part of the special sending they did for us at each of the three services. The pastor had congregants come forward and lay hands on us, while he prayed, blessed us, and anointed us with oil. It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful the ministry of touch is. Just as much as the very kind words of affection and affirmation that we heard from parishioners, the warm, loving touch of their hands on our backs and shoulders was a palpable sign of their care and blessing.
At one of the services, as I stood there before the altar, feeling the light pressure of their hands on my shoulders, I was suddenly reminded of Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 11: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This is the vocation to which I have been called: to be “yoked” to the church, “burdened” with love for this community and for its Lord. And I am so grateful for it.