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Thank you for being real with me

The day I graduated from Seminary I was interviewed by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.  One of the questions they asked me was, “What are you looking forward to most in ministry?”  I said that I was looking forward to being part of the real moments with people, beyond polite conversations, deep, real moments.  I wanted to be there when people were being honest and genuine; in times of joy and times of struggle, births, deaths, marriages, deep questions and shared longings.  That was ten years ago and as I look back on these past seven years in Toledo I can say that I got to do that and I am thankful.

My first four years in Toledo I was the pastor of Woodville United Methodist Church.  I remember it fondly as a time when I got to walk beside some wonderful people.  I officiated their weddings, baptized their babies, visited them in the hospital, prayed with them as their loved ones died, helped them say their final goodbyes, taught their children, wrestled with questions of faith, preached to them, learned from them and loved them.  Toledo was home.  On a cool summer’s evening I loved to turn up the music, put the window down and take a deep breath as I crossed over the Glass City Skyway and looked upon the lights of the downtown.  I loved to go running through the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood, Old Orchard.  My husband and I loved to explore new places and regularly checked the “top 5 things to do in Toledo this weekend” list.

In 2013 I made the difficult decision to leave my position at Woodville UMC and become a stay at home mom.  I remember nervously walking into story time at Sanger Branch Library with my then almost two year old wondering if we would make any friends.  I saw the other moms chatting and felt envious.  And then the most amazing thing started to happen, I made friends.  We had wonderful play dates climbing the tree house at Imagination Station, splashing around at the zoo, building sand castles at Maumee Bay and picking pumpkins at Gust Brothers.  I joined the Old Orchard Families’ Group and suddenly all those houses I used to admire as I jogged past became familiar.  The beautiful old doors opened and welcomed us.  My block also became so much more than neighboring houses.  Through play dates, block parties and front yard conversations our neighbors became dear and trusted friends.

I also got to know the churches in Toledo.  Being a United Methodist means I am in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, so I can fill in for Lutheran and Methodist pastors when they go on vacation.  I have preached at many different churches in the last couple of years.  I have connected with the joy and longing in people’s hearts as we took bread and wine together.  I have heard their stories and shared my own.  I have also had the opportunity to be part of the church where my husband is the priest, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  The building, the people, the liturgy has become home to my family.  Both our boys were baptized there.  We have loved and been loved by the people there.

So, I guess I can say “it’s been real.”  In Toledo I have found what I was looking for, a place to connect, to be genuine and real, to be with people through all of life’s ups and downs.  In one week we will leave.  We are moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It’s not because Toledo is lacking anything or deficient or in any way disappointing, but rather because this is the nature of our vocations and where God is calling us to next.  As we pack up our belongings we also pack our wonderful memories.  The faces of those we have connected with will always be with us.  Words fail me when I try to express what these past seven years have meant to me.  Toledo is where I had my babies and where I have given love and felt so much in return.  Thank you for being real with me and for letting me be real with you.  As my husband said in his final sermon at St. Andrew’s “Thank you.  I love you and goodbye.”

 

Jennifer and her husband, Jeremiah, moved to Toledo seven years ago when he was appointed the priesthood at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church near the Old Orchard neighborhood. The church became a central part of their life, and their family in Toledo so it was natural that Jennifer wanted to have her photographs taken there. Life took them off to pastures new a few of weeks ago but we know their St. Andrews community and their Old Orchard community (including us!) miss them.

 

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