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AfterWords | A Curtain, A Table, A Host (March 17, 2024)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Jill Carattini

We were five minutes late as we made our way up the steps of the Kalen Center, self-conscious and unsure, newcomers hoping to sneak in unseen. Instead, we were met by smiling greeters, who laughed as we apologized, assuring us that the service likely hadn’t even started yet, and they were so glad we were here. We sat behind a kind man who struck up a conversation with our fifth grader, Gabriel, who uncharacteristically shared during Three Good Minutes that he was “slightly terrified” about going to middle school the next year. Andy Culp chuckled as we asked his occupation. Gabriel is now one of his middle school boys at (the Andy-founded) Anvil Academy.

From the moment we stepped foot into the Parish community a little over a year ago, we have been seen and known in a way that feels mysteriously like Christ has gone before us, turning on all the lights, preparing the table, gathering the community who would beckon us inside. It is a feeling decidedly different from the Christ-haunted imagination that novelist Flannery O’Connor described lurking among us in the South: Jesus as a stalking, ragged figure moving from tree to tree in the back of one’s mind as we find our way in life.

The Christ-centered respite this community offers so well is a transformative gift, even more so for those of us who have emerged from Christ-haunted communities, arriving at the Parish hungry and weary.

On Sunday, our pastor Jordan described our community as “a unique, simple place of loving presence,” and he spoke honestly of some realities that could begin to tax this identity. Having doubled in size over the past two years, we are up against some limits as a community that require both short-term and long-term discernment together.

Most of us are familiar with the season of Lent meeting us individually. It is a time for reflection, confession, and discernment of the places in me where Christ is shining light and asking for my attention. Jordan handed us the season of Lent in communal terms this Sunday, inviting us to examine together the places where Christ is just ahead of us, turning on the lights, tending to the table, and beckoning us to welcome well the community he continues to gather:

How do we discerningly grow without losing what makes this community a unique and simple place of loving presence?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I have little doubt that together we will discover the mystery and the gifts of paying attention to the One hospitably at work among us.

Rod and Steph Donlan were the greeters who assured us not to worry about being late that first day. They remembered our names and our faces each Sunday thereafter, greeting us whether serving as greeters or not. Last week, still ever five minutes late, we were greeted by Rod in the parking lot, who handed us a gift from Steph for our new house church. As I read her note later that day, I was met with the now familiar Parish feeling that God is moving just ahead of us, preparing the table.

Steph described an Etsy search for a curtain that led to a discovery of something she recognized was not a curtain at all. What was being described as a window treatment with needlepoint animals was, in fact, an intricately crafted Eucharistic altar cloth. Steph saw what the seller did not: a labor of love from a believer who went before us, and the time-consuming needlepoint figures of a lamb (a symbol of Christ crucified), a whale (a symbol of Christ resurrected), wheat and grapes (the symbols of Christ our host), and the Greek Chi Rho monograph (the first two letters of the name of Christ, Christos). Rescuing it from a life of curtaindom, longing to see its rich symbols restored at the table, Steph presented it as a gift to the new Parish house church—itself a sign of Parish growth and the call of Christ to join him in hospitality.

She closed with a prayer fitting for this season of discernment before us as a community:

May our people always remember Christ has set the table.

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