“There is plenty of work to be done here, God knows. To struggle each day to walk paths of righteousness is no pushover, and struggle we must because just as we are fed like sheep in green pastures, we must also feed his sheep, which are each other. Jesus, our shepherd, tells us that. We must help bear each other’s burdens. We must pray for each other. We must nourish each other, weep with each other, rejoice with each other. In short, we must love each other. We must never forget that.”
~ Frederick Buechner
I reside as part of a small community and am a member of an even smaller community of faith. I live here because my wife lived here before me, and over the past eight years I’ve grown not only accustomed to these surroundings, but to care for the people who are fixtures in these surroundings. Two such residents who mean a great deal to me are our landlords and neighbors from down the simple country lane I now call home. This relationship led two years ago to my agreeing to preach at their small historic church, which stands near the geographical gateway to the modest region. The white clapboard church building wears the label ‘Methodist,’ but consists of parishioners who are primarily not Methodists — a denominational Heinz 57. In an oddly unpredictable way, I fit – in this church, in this community, in this home. I’ve been thinking lately that were you granted an opportunity like the one given Karen Blixen by Denys Finch Hatton in “Out of Africa” as he flies her in an open cockpit biplane over her beloved Ngong Hills, you would peer down over the side and notice a quilt-like pattern spread out below you, a fitting image for a quilting people. Like the land, we are pieced together here, somewhat akin to gingham patches in an antique quilt. In the overall scheme of things, not many have lived and died here over the past one hundred and sixty years. The cemetery reveals as much about this community as anything living. A relatively few familiar family names are etched in stone, scattered throughout Bosqueville cemetery like a circling of the wagons, a community’s last stand against the onslaught of life and death. In the end, Bosqueville cannot be understood by GPS coordinates or surveyor’s stakes; it is defined by its residents. The community persists along family lines, where neighbors know one another, attend each other’s funerals, and applaud one another’s children at school celebrations and athletic contests. This is not a place for strangers. It is a place for friends, a place for family, and, above all else, it is a place for being known. God intends his churches to be just that– places for knowing and being known. We were created for him and to live in relationship with him and each other, a community in the fullest sense of the word.