November 20, 2014

Faith Connections

Most Friday afternoons the office at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar, California, is a quiet place. Locals head out of work early to hit the beach, but get stuck in a jam on the freeways. Though we staff the front desk lest the phone ring or an email comes in, no calls come through; no emails pop up. It’s warm, sunny, and breezy, on a Friday Del Mar day.

This particular Friday was no different. The busyness of the workweek was over. Bulletins were printed; updated announcements were posted to the web site. St. Peter’s was ready for weekend worship. I sat quietly wondering what I could do next.

Fairly new to California, missing home, friends, family, and my home congregation, it dawned on me if I familiarized myself with the church’s pictorial directory, I might recognize a friendly face in my new community if I ran into someone here or there. I could put names and faces together, and make connections.

What seemed like a lot of time that passed was really not. Done with the directory, I thought I’d see if our web pages were user-friendly, eye-catching, and chock-full-of-information. I decided they flowed logically one to the next, were accurate, and timely. You could learn where the church is located, when we hold worship services, and all particulars for upcoming special events. You can browse photos, old newsletters, and select a sermon or two to hear. You can even choose how you’d like to serve the church and surrounding community. Why would the phone need to ring or an email be sent with such an effective tool? It wouldn’t!

And there it was. The phone lit up. Thank heaven, because somehow, the phone has a mysterious way of lowering its own volume. It rang! I answered it. And I heard a familiar accent that brought me 3,000 miles home in a heartbeat. The woman on the other end had a question – about something she saw on our web site – our thrift shop of all things. And even though every question she asked could have been answered by a simple click to the web page, she chose to phone. And I was glad. We got to talking – never mind her questions – (note to the rector: I answered all her questions), and on the caller ID, I saw she had the same area code I did, from Philadelphia. She had my accent; I was connected with a sister in Christ from home. So I asked. “You have the same area code as me. Are you from Philly?” “Yes!” she exclaimed. I said I knew it when I heard her accent – it’s unmistakable – and when I saw her area code. I asked if she was visiting, no, she was a resident, just up and moved here a few years back, on a whim. We compared notes, shared brief stories, reminisced about home, and discovered we grew up a half hour away from each other, high school rivals: I was a “Ryan Ragdoll,” she was a Goretti Lamb.

Though we never made plans to meet, for that moment I was reconnected with someone from home. You know how it goes. The instant you know someone’s from your land, you’re related. You’re connected. You’re bonded. The emotional impact this had on me was profound, even if just for a brief moment in time. I was the one who was supposed to help if someone called. Our web site was supposed to connect someone else, not me. Yet she was the one who unexpectedly helped me, all made by a simple connection of faith, of friends, of family, through St. Peter’s web page,

Sister Lamb, wherever you are out there, if we never meet again, thank you. For you encouraged me!

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