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Goings and comings

Reflections on a new Call

February 5, 2010

Photo: The Rev. Erin Cox-Holmes

The Rev. Erin Cox-Holmes

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Penn.

Editor’s note: This week, after 15 years as associate executive for the Presbytery of Kiskiminetas in central Pennsylvania, the Rev. Erin Cox-Holmes takes up her new call as executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Donegal, in southeastern Pennsylvania. — Jerry L. Van Marter

Today I am thinking about transitions.

I am thinking about leaving.

As I write this, a giant U-Haul is bellied up to my garage door. The family is helping me to feed it. Boxes of books, mostly, along with the personal goods needed to make a nest for the next six months.

My last office nest — the one I had for 15 years — was painful to tear apart. I wrapped beloved mementos in the leftover Christmas tissue. It’s an odd collection, each item bringing to my fingertips the memory of a cherished friend who gave it to me. I will miss them. I will miss mother-henning in Kiskiminetas.

I look around at my family. Meredith, my 14-year-old daughter, stops what she is doing, and silently lowers her head on my shoulder. I wrap my arms around her and don’t say anything either.

We’ve said it all. We’ve installed the webcams and pinkie-sworn that we will talk each night, no matter what.

We’ve made our plots for how she’ll bring her best friend to ride the train to come visit me. Her daddy will put her on in Altoona, and I’ll pluck her off in Lancaster.

We are out of words, Meredith and I, but I hold her tight, and pray the hug will last in her body’s memory. I snuggle next to Kent, my husband, in the cold winter dawn, and pray the memory of his warmth will last me until we all are nested together again.

Today I am thinking about leaving, and leaving is grief.

Today I am also thinking about arriving.

Somebody once compared diving into presbytery leadership as trying to sip water from a fire hose. The first week in Donegal Presbytery will certainly feel that way. Most likely the books will still be in their boxes as we all wind our way through transitions, orientations and enough meetings to make the most dedicated meeting-goer ecstatically happy.

I am thinking about arriving, tossing in nightmares when I can’t remember anybody’s name and waking to remind myself once more to trust God’s Call.

I remember our forebears who made unexpected journeys to respond to the Call as well. Sarah and Hagar, Esther and Ruth, Mary and Joseph — they all knew something about the Call in the night and modeled how to say “Yes” with grace.

Today I am thinking about hospitality. The Donegal Presbytery staff — Charlie, Susan, Kathy, Bill, Nan and Amy — have all been gracious. They are “welcomers,” even when the arrival of a new person shifts office dynamics, disrupts space, moves things around.

I am thinking about Grace, and how it is embodied — even by the newsletter editor, Ann, who put up with my delay in producing this article.

I am giving thanks for new relationships, and the way that Christ is present in a simple “Hello! We’re glad you’re coming.”

Today I am thinking about our future together. The one that comes after the boxes are unpacked, the family is re-united and this newbie has figured out how to maneuver the three counties without relying so heavily on that bossy GPS lady.

I am praying over the people I have heard from and their churches and praying over those I’ve yet to meet. Today, there is that truck to finish loading, but on the other side is a new mission, laboring together in the Vineyard of our Lord.

Today I am brushing away tears. Today I am hopeful. Today, my back aches.

But my heart is filled with our future together, and I give thanks ... and look forward to what we will build together.

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