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Church-hugged

FOR OVER A MONTH I HAVE BEEN SKIPPING out on Sunday morning worship. Yet, in the past weeks of absence from church services, I have never felt more embraced by the church community as my life goes through a massive season of change. With the arrival of Daniel (7 pounds, 11 ounces), our family of two became a family of three this spring. Daniel is beautiful, delightful and totally exhausting for his mom and dad.

Our season of great need is daily reminding me that being Christ to one another has little to do with fancy evangelism gimmicks. While I often reflect on fresh expressions of church life (such as this past year’s column on “Flipped Church”), deep in my heart I know that the core of the church’s calling is to love one another. Not all PC(USA) churches will venture into entrepreneurial new ministries; far more important is the church ‘hugs’ we offer to the needy God places in our lives. When it comes to welcoming a baby, saying goodbye to loved ones or being present through illness, many PC(USA) churches thrive at being Christ’s body in such seasons. As you read on, I pray you are filled with hope, seeing echoes of your church members too in these bits of new mom stories.

Daniel’s entry into our lives was something we had prepared for through reading books and taking classes (we are a Presbyterian family after all!). But, as with any first-time parents with no real idea what they are getting into, we had no way to fully prepare for actually living with a baby. Throughout my pregnancy, as I (and my growing tummy) participated in worship, our family was lifted up in prayer. During coffee hour, I was blessed with birth and newborn stories from experienced parents and grandparents. Their words of support and encouragement helped ground me while waiting for Daniel to arrive.

When we threw a party to celebrate our coming baby, not only did church members attend, bring food for the buffet and help with party logistics, a group of folks also pooled funds and generously bought the biggest ticket item on our baby registry. Many others gave our most requested gift of used baby books, and one family with several boys passed along four large bags of tiny boy clothes and other baby items. Needless to say, thanks to church, Daniel has been well provided for!

Church members also vitally supported us through coordinating meal deliveries, which were key to our survival during those first exhausting weeks. Our spirits were lifted by brief visits at the hospital and our home. The pastors’ visit was particularly uplifting as they brought us the spiritual nourishment of celebrating the Lord’s Supper and anointing us with oil as they prayed for a full recovery from delivery-related injuries.

Currently I am on leave to serve as Daniel’s primary caregiver for the coming months and I could not be more thankful for church members who stop by to spend time with Daniel and me. Without these visits there are days I might not remember to eat lunch or do other essential tasks.

All the countless small acts of love from church members gave have added up to a huge hug of care given to our family. In a very personal way, to an exhausted new mom and dad with their vulnerable newborn, the church is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and preparing our family to have Daniel himself welcomed into church membership by baptism. And word has been spreading to the wider community of the love for new parents! Once our family is back at Sunday morning worship, Daniel is going to have many small friends in the nursery, along with his bigger friends in the pews who so faithfully love one another.

karen-sloanKAREN SLOAN lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and wrote this while either machine pumping milk for Daniel or wearing a napping Daniel wrapped up on her chest. She can be reached at flirtingwithmonasticism@gmail.com.

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