It was a beautiful evening, over two years ago, before I became a pastor at Western Church. I was a pastor in Barrington, and my Rhode Island representative, Patrick Kennedy, invited me to join him at the National Prayer Breakfast.
I was riding over Memorial Bridge with his office manager, heading into D.C. from Reagan Airport. The night was crisp, and I could see the Lincoln Memorial in front of me, with its white grand pillars against the backdrop of the dark evening sky.
Many emotions flooded me. The first was the sense of grandeur that overtakes me when I come face to face with great architecture. That building that been on the tip of my finger every time I rubbed a penny in my pocket was suddenly in front of me, and I felt the greatness of the city and an undeniable love for my country pulsing in my veins.
Then there was another feeling: it was like deja vu. Except I didn’t have the eerie impression that I had been there before, I had the sense that I was going to be there in the future. While riding over that bridge, I felt like I was going home. Even though I didn’t know anything about Western Church, even though I didn’t want to leave Rhode Island, I somehow sensed that things were going to change for me and my family.
In the midst of the flood, I blurted out to the driver, “Do you ever get used to this?”
“What?” she asked in return.
“Do you ever get used to seeing the architecture? Do you lose the sense of how amazing it is, after you’ve lived here for a few years?”
She smiled in the rear view mirror. She knew what I was talking about. “Well, sometimes there’s traffic…but, no. You don’t lose the feeling.”
I did lose the sense that I was “home” when I attended the breakfast. Like a fish out of water. It was not what I expected. There was this strange array of people there, from organizations with names like “Wallbuilders.” I shook their hands while wondering, “Aren’t we supposed to be tearing those down?”
I was one of the very few people who wore a clerical collar, and definitely the only woman in one. There were a lot of women there. I’m guessing they were mostly in their late fifties, many of them wore sequined dresses and sprayed their abundant hair with glitter for the occasion (did I mention it was breakfast?).
The politicians got up and told us how many Bible studies they attended and how much they prayed. They played to the audience a lot. They told jokes about how it was a bipartisan event, and they were surprised to find out that there were some Democrats who were Christian. That joke was repeated several times. I sat at a table next to Peggy and Tony Campolo, who looked about as amused as I did (and just for the record, Peggy didn’t have sequins or glitter).
It was weeks later when I got the call from Western, beginning the interview process to become a pastor there. The position looked amazing, perfect really, but I pretty much dismissed the possibility, because I didn’t think there was any way we could afford it. Then I emailed a friend of mine, a pastor in Falls Church, and he said, “It’s a wonderful church. They’re wonderful people. Don’t write this one off too quickly.”
I didn’t, and now I find myself driving over Memorial Bridge, almost every morning to get to work. And she was right. The feeling doesn’t go away.