Losing a Pulpit, Gaining Salvation

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I have had church responsibilities every Sunday since February of 2013 when I took my first associate position in undergrad. I dragged my wife on a church tour of Charleston so I could geek out before we left on our honeymoon cruise. One might think that church matters to me. A month ago this week, I left the church I was working at after national media attention caused us to part ways.

Ever since then, I’ve been filling my Sundays with speaking engagements and other activities to keep me busy but October 1st has been on my mind since this whole thing started. World Communion Sunday, and I didn’t have a place to preach or preside over the Eucharist. I would have said that was my worst nightmare but I have found that God took a nightmare and made it a dream.

This morning I received a message from the Reverend Tom Sherrod, a chaplain at the hospital in my hometown that I was welcome to preach and preside at the table. I was elated. I had been bemoaning the fact I had no place to lay my homiletical head but Tom made a way for me to preach to the staff and patients of Iredell Memorial Hospital in a town of 26,000 people in the Piedmont of North Carolina. It may not sound lavish or dreamy but I experienced the purest form of worship I had felt in a long time.

It wasn't anything I did in particular that led to this feeling. I preached, I prayed, I lifted the elements, but there in the skilled nursing unit I watched as Tom’s wife, Nancy helped a patient receive the elements of bread and juice from a plastic plate and plastic cup. Elements made holy by the epiclesis but solidified in the good news of Jesus Christ by that lady who could barely receive the elements we call Christ.

What I’m starting to realize is I thought I lost everything, but in that experience and perception of loss I gained knowing God better. Losing a church job in such a public fashion isn’t for the faint of heart, and I’ve lost confidence and many things because of it. But I’ve gained the world and a better understanding of salvation.

Tom Sherrod, chaplain for Iredell Health Systems leads a rag tag group of musicians and preaches a good word on Sundays to 8 or 9 people week in and week out, and when he invited me into that space I saw the heart of God. I learned to sing again simply because we sang the old hymns that the patients would know.

I may have found myself unemployed for the time being, but I found support from my wife, my poodle, friends who have stuck around, and unlikely places like skilled nursing in a hospital. I echo the words from the text I preached today, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”