Our Community is a Sheltering Tree

MINISTER’S BLOG — A few weeks ago, I spoke about our church community as a circle of loving friends, where we help each other heal the past, live powerfully and authentically in the present, and awaken to unlimited possibilities for future good. Since that Sunday, I have experienced the truth of those words in a deeper way than I even knew was possible.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “Friendship is a sheltering tree,” which is how I have experienced you— my community — most recently.  Prior to Al’s passing you sheltered us with comfort through your prayers, notes and cards with loving wishes, healing treatments, phone calls, texts, emails, consistent offers of help, gifts of food and flowers, sharing memories, playing favorite songs, laughing and crying, celebrating and grieving, and showing up to sit and be a loving and supportive presence when you were most needed to do exactly that. Your friendship provided a safe haven — a sheltering tree where we could both laugh and cry.

Later, as my beloved prince began the process of leaving his physical body, you ministered to me and helped me find the strength to willingly let him go. My deep sadness and vulnerability was made so much more bearable because you were there. Dinah Maria Mulok Craik in A Life for a Life gives this beautiful description of the experience, “Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

Then, when Al’s journey was finished, you were still there, a sheltering tree — loving, hugging, comforting and praying, moving furniture, sending cards, notes, pictures and flowers, remembering and honoring us both, preparing for and participating in his Celebration of Life and bringing food for the reception afterwards. Both the service and the reception were awesome reflections of your love. 

Thank you, my friends, for the countless ways you have sheltered us with your love, showered us with your caring and made a safe place for us in your hearts. Special thanks to Rev. Linda Machesic and Rev. Teresa Curry for sharing Sunday messages; our Board of Trustees, whose members each took on extra responsibilities; and staff members and volunteer teams who carried on with their work without missing a beat while I was on leave of absence. I am grateful.

You are my friends — my community, and I love you. 

— Rev. Carmen Rich Zappi