This is the first of a year’s worth of weekly posts as I begin a year’s interim pastorate at The Congregational Church of Tryon, UCC, in North Carolina.
After some mopey afternoons of homesickness since my 15 year old son, Samuel, and I arrived here this past Monday, I rediscovered the consolation of a cup of Yorkshire Gold tea and milk yesterday, after doing my afternoon Centering Prayer—and the joy of throwing myself into sermon and worship preparation this morning for this coming Sunday, a day early.
I have to tell you, this is the longest my wife Linda and our boys have been apart—ever—since Linda and I were married in October of 1996. I’ve discovered the challenges and the benefits of being able to work uninterrupted: the challenges of not overworking, and the benefits of being able to concentrate for the long periods required to plan weeks, if not months, ahead, and to master the intricacies of Windows 10, Dropbox, and a new version of Microsoft Outlook on the pastor’s laptop.
One of the antidotes to the boredom of not having a family of four around is putting together the furniture we ordered from Overstocks.com—a queen bed and headboard, a futon for the living room—and making the trip up to Candler, a suburb of Asheville, to pick up a couple of cute red-vinyl chaises for the living room, which Samuel helped me with. Parishioners are gradually populating the parsonage kitchen with cooking utensils, pots and pans, and the other rooms with lamps and side tables to complement the eclectic décor. It’s looking less and less like a college-student rental and more like a comfortable home. I can’t wait for our whole family to spend Christmas break here!
The challenge of turning the U-Haul trailer around, with the Ford Freestyle, in a long, curvy driveway was made easier by unhooking the trailer and walking it into place, then reattaching it to the car for the drive back down the mountain to Tryon.
Tryon, NC, is a hamlet of 1,600 people that sits at the practically-sea level elevation of 1,020 feet in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which I’ll be calling home for about the next year. The beauty around here is striking: so much lush, hardwood forest, especially compared to the semi-arid, evergreen-and-scrub landscapes of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain foothills in Longmont, where my family and I have lived since 2008. The kudzu is abundant, climbing up the trunks of tree after tree, and spreads out massively on hillsides and roadsides, which it virtually takes over. The closest analogue we have in the West is something called bindweed, which is just as invasive—but I’ve never seen the sheer size or extent of a weed the likes of kudzu!
I’m looking forward to my time here. The congregation recently said goodbye to their senior minister, who is retiring after 13 years here, and in two Sundays, their associate and his family will leave for a new call to a UCC church in southern Wisconsin. Lots of change here, and my hope is that we can use the unfamiliar territory of change to deepen our walk with God through the interim process, which I look at as more than a fill-in time between settled ministers, and more as a time of personal and communal transformation.
I’ll be chronicling my time here in this blog—along with lifting up stories and observations of Christian people doing God’s work of justice and compassion in what has lately come to be thought of as “The Bathroom Bill State.” As an Open and Affirming congregation, the Tryon UCC church stands to be a kind of community of resistance to narrow-mindedness and fear. And hopefully, we’ll have fun doing it together!