I was in North Carolina this past weekend, though I don’t really know all the cities I was in. They seemed to change so fast. I do know that I stayed in Atlantic Beach and preached at Father’s House in Newport. I also spent a night in the vicinity of New Bern because US Air has the worst customer service in the airline industry – though I completely enjoyed my night in the New Bern area and so am quite thankful for US Air’s incompetence. That doesn’t mean I am chomping at the bit to fly US Air again, mind you.
I traveled to North Carolina to visit my colleague Fr. Ed Holm and meet the folks at the faith community of which he is a part. The senior pastor at Father’s House is Juan Pulido, a delightful man with a charming wife named Tracy. I also got to meet Ed’s wife Becky, who is absolutely delightful as well. Our Fr. Jerry Roy, the Diocesan Administrator of the area, kindly picked me up from the airport and drove me around – a task that was absolutely life saving because I was directionally challenged all weekend. You see, I have lived near water most of my life – either Lake Michigan or the Atlantic Ocean, except for brief periods living in Rockford, IL and Indianapolis, IN – and the body of water has always been to the east. I didn’t fully understand how dependent I was on the reality as an orienting truth until I got to this part of North Carolina where the Atlantic is more or less to the south – sort of, I think. Anyway, I had no idea where I was most of the time and am thankful for Jerry’s expert assistance. By the time his GPS committed suicide on Sunday we had become somewhat acclimated.
I absolutely love meeting new people and new faith communities. In fact, I always feel like I come away enriched by the experience. Jerry and I got to spend time with Ed’s New Testament Class that he teaches at Father’s House on Friday night, which was delightful. We spent time with Pastor Juan on Saturday morning and then went to dinner Saturday night with Juan, Tracy, Ed, and Becky. I was in seafood heaven, having forgotten how good the seafood is near the ocean – then again, it’s been more than twenty years since I lived in New England. Spending time with the people at Father’s House on Sunday morning was surely the highlight of the trip – they were so incredibly gracious and welcoming. I learned a lot as well, and I haven’t really finished processing it and so can’t articulate it very well just yet but I can say that there is something that connects people who are looking for what we might say is the meaning of life and why we are all here that transcends cultural differences that cannot be experienced until we leave our home town. It is so very powerful to experience that unity, and also quite difficult to describe it. If I had my way, I would have the opportunity to make visits like this one at least once a month.
My extra night in North Carolina was delightful, too. I got to spend a quiet evening doing some writing and quite a bit of reading. It made me aware that I need to spend more time not only in silence but also in solitude. Doing that is going to require some rearranging of my schedule, but I believe it is an essential component of my journey. God calls to us constantly, but we are best able to hear it in silence and solitude. That doesn’t mean we have to become hermits – far from it. We can hear the call no matter what our vocation is, but we hear it much more easily when we place ourselves in a quiet environment on a regular basis.
I am confident that over the next few weeks I will be able to articulate more fully the things I learned in North Carolina, and will share them when I can. In the meantime, if you would like me to come visit your group just let me know!