By Dr. Mike Graves, Scholar in Residence and Minister of Spiritual Formation
Space does not permit me to name the differences between serving in the seminary and the local church, although as Fred Craddock used to rightly remind folks, the seminary is the education wing of the church. One year ago, I began my time at Country Club Christian as the interim guest preacher. A year later I’m on staff full-time. Many of you have asked how it’s going, do I like it, those sorts of inquiries.
The answer is yes, an unqualified yes, but one that demands an explanation, a testimony really. I can think of lots of reasons I like it, and I’m not even including how the church doesn’t require me to grade papers. Here are just a few things: I like my colleagues very much, a gifted and dedicated group of people. I like this incredible building in which I work. Not many people get to work in a space like this.
But there’s no question that what I like best is the collective made up of each of you. I like the people. I like your passion for justice, whether it’s caring for the least here in Kansas City or the other side of the world. I admire your care for each other, taking Communion to shut-ins and casseroles to those recuperating from surgery and illness. I am speechless at your work ethic when it comes to projects and missions in the church. I like your gentle spirit, recalling that the Apostle Paul lists “gentleness” as a mark of the Spirit in a person’s life. I enjoy visiting about big things and small things in your life over refreshments in the parlor.
Just recently I was recalling something from the life of Thomas Merton, the reluctant monk and spiritual writer, who had a vision one ordinary day in Kentucky. He was on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in downtown Louisville. It was March of 1958 when he suddenly realized that all of us humans are connected, what we call six degrees of separation these days. He found himself attracted to humanity. Writing about it later, he observed, “There is just no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” Maybe there’s not, but that’s what all of us on the staff are trying to say every Sunday, along with the fact that God feels the same way.