I pray this finds you well!
We haven't met, although your priest, now the Rector at St. James, was on the diocesan commission that presented me for ordination a lot years ago in South Bend. So we have a wonderfully corrupting influence in common. Ha. In any case, I went to pick up my car from the shop today. I didn't know in the moment that I would be sitting down a few hours later to tell you about it, but I now find myself compelled to share what there unfolded and, although you did nothing to repair my automobile, convey my deep and true gratitude for you.
The tires, it turned out, had been badly in need of alignment, and two of them were being replaced. It had been a long day of good meetings at work, so I had missed a couple of messages from the auto shop earlier in the day. I was running late. I found myself sailing in at exactly closing time, hoping someone would let me in. When I arrived, the shop was locked.
A minute later, Paul opened the door. Paul handles intake at the shop and had left me the messages I didn't get. "You, huh?" he said, with a slight smile. "The guy who doesn't check his messages and can't tell time." I laughed. "I knew I was pushing it, but I was hoping to sneak in in time. I missed." "Yep. You missed. Come on in."
Paul flipped through some paperwork, looking for mine. Without looking up from his papers, he asked me, "So, you work with college kids, huh?" I thought for a second, confused. We've known each other for a while, but I've never mentioned my job. He must have heard my voicemail when he left the messages. "At the UW-Madison." Yes. "Yes, I do." He shook his head, half admiration, half exasperation. "God bless you." I laughed again. "One of my boys is in college and hanging out with a hard crowd. I don't like the way it's headed. My thinking is a little science can ruin a faith, but a lot of science can do it good." "That sounds exactly right," I offered. Philosophy, too, I thought.
"They know everything. College students. At least mine do. It makes it hard."
Paul disappeared to the back of the garage, still looking for my paperwork. He came back with a stack of papers, none of them mine. Absentmindedly, he asked me, "What's that mayor - the guy from South Bend?"
"Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg."
"Right. He's Episcopal. That's you, right?"
"I keep thinking... My son... Y'all are LGBT affirming, right? My son would need to know that - that's you in the Episcopal Church?"
"Mmm. You know, Catholics are sometimes too focused on having babies. And questioning authority on the local level is not something that always goes over well. It's fine for me, the way it is, I'm sixty years in and used to it, but he...you know, I might send him over to you."
"You should! I'd love to meet him."
"Yeah, I'd like to send him over to you. I'd like to let him know about you."
As I left, Paul thanked me for providing him with counsel, but even in the moment I knew I hadn't offered any. Paul knew that there was a church with an unflinching commitment and place for his son because of you and your witness, your openness in sharing about the shape and character of the Christian faith as you have known and received it. I left the repair shop today deeply touched for the way Paul, a devout Catholic, nevertheless counted on the Episcopal Church to be there for his son and was so genuinely grateful that it was. (His is a trust I don't carry lightly, and one for which I am keenly and regularly aware of the church's and my own need for repentance and continued growth.) I left the shop deeply touched that the source of his gratitude for new possibilities of faith was your public witness.
Bless you. Thank you. I thank God for the lives that are discovering new and abundant life, new hope, and the assurance of love, by the Spirit at work in you.
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