A Memory by Pastor David P. Nelson
It was a delightful invitation to remember something from life at Saint Peter. I think I was supposed to share a specific memory—a particular event or ministry, but that’s not how I think about my time at Saint Peter. A few years removed from being the Pastor of this blessed congregation, leaves me thinking back in two ways. I miss Saint Peter not in general, but specifically. I think of specific people and the specific movement of God’s Spirit through them. And, I think less of particular moments than of holy habits—deep patterns of faith—that reflect the heartbeat of this community.
The habit of faith I remember most clearly and fondly is Saint Peter’s propensity to show up. The great theologian, Woody Allen, once said that “90 percent of life is just showing up.” I have always held that to be true for community—90 percent of building community is just showing up. Showing up—presence—is hardly a mundane, run of the mill thing. Showing up is, in truth, sacramental. It has the power and the promise to reveal the very grace of God.
During my pastorate, I delighted in and gave thanks regularly for Saint Peter’s gift for showing up. Saint Peter showed up on Sundays to fill the pews with presence and praise. Saint Peter showed up on Wednesdays to eat great food, to worship, and to both begin and deepen friendships. One member said it best: “I just can’t wait all the way until next Sunday to be with my church family”. Saint Peter showed up to clean up the grounds and to listen to blessed music. It showed up with 1,000 winter coats for those who needed warming and full backpacks for kids who wouldn’t have had them. Saint Peter showed up in Southport and Oak Island but also in post Katrina Slidell and Haiti. It showed up at baseball games and spiritual retreats and annual meetings and pig roasts. Saint Peter showed up every Thursday to engage with holy scripture and at anyone’s home who needed a helping hand or encouraging word. Saint Peter showed up to celebrate milestones and days of joy and it showed up to share days of grief and walks to healing.
Saint Peter showed up and showed up and showed up and the result was a growing community whose fabric was knit tighter and tighter. I have always loved this sacrament of showing up the most about the Saint Peter community. There may have been lots of travelers in the Saint Peter congregation but when they were in town, they were gathering at church—to be church.
In the end, the sacrament of showing up takes Jesus as his word. It trusts that wherever two or three are gathered that Jesus will be there. I didn’t always know what would happen, but I always knew Saint Peter would show up. And, in showing up, it became community in Jesus’ name and spirit. I not only remember this blessed holy habit….I will never forget it.