I spent this past weekend with some old friends. I grew up with these guys—we were in the nursery together at the First Presbyterian Church of Burbank. We sang in a boys’ choir back in grade school, played on the same sports teams, and participated in all sorts of church events. Three of us went to the same high school, where we played against the other in baseball. We all graduated in 1981, and continued to see each other and travel together on skiing and backpacking trips. I performed the wedding services for two of them, and have counseled the other through a divorce. We met at a house in Shell Beach, about three hours up the California coast from where we grew up. My aunt has a house there that we all visited as kids, and so it was the perfect place to gather.
We could not have grown up to be more different from each other. One is a police officer in our hometown, while another is a prominent emergency room physician at the busiest hospital in Philadelphia. Another is a foreman for a construction company, building homes along California’s Central Coast. And then there’s me. I’ve worked in churches and Christian non-profit organizations my whole adult life. The four of us could hardly be more different, and yet…
We share a common history that binds us together.
We four don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything—far from it. But in a meaningful way, even when we disagree, we understand each other because we’ve known each other for so long. Not many 43 year-olds can boast of significant friendships that span 40 years, and we recognize the gift we have together. That history helps us understand our separate presents and futures, and gives us hope that we’ll continue as friends for years to come.
Another thing I like is that our friendships are rooted in our time in the church. Faith has always been a part of our individual and corporate relationships, even though we’re all in different places in our relationships to Christ. But God knows our stories, and knows that they’re built on time we spent in Sunday School, in Youth ministries, on mission trips and in worship. And that gives our relationships a dimension that means something, even when we’re not sure exactly what that is.
The American Church in London website says: “If you are in London for a short time or a lifetime, we invite you…” It’s an invitation to worship and serve Christ in a community of faith, to build relationships and make histories together that will last long after we part ways. Lots of clubs and organizations can provide something like this, but only Christ’s Body offers a present reality tied to a future hope. That’s the gift people are giving to each other at ACL, and to those who haven’t found their way in just yet. Churches exist for a complex of reasons: to provide worship time and space, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed, to encourage fellowship that grows into deep community. I’m looking forward to seeing how ACL will live and grow in these important areas.
This past weekend my friends and I went fishing, played golf, and ate a lot of food. We walked and talked a lot, watched movies and some of the World Series, and slept late three mornings in a row. What we were doing was saying goodbye for now. With my move to London it will be a while before we can get together again. As we all drove off I felt fortunate to have this history, but even more blessed to have a future filled with ministry and service and adventure. Leaving the guys was a key step in getting ready to leave for London.
We leave in 58 days.