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Blessed Be the “Glue” That Binds

Among the things I did not learn in seminary was how to conduct a wedding. Outside of my own, I had hardly ever been to a wedding, and about the only thing I remember about my own wedding was the wonder of having a bride such as she. Imagine my panic one week into my first pastorate when I had to lead a wedding rehearsal.

It was even worse a few weeks later when the funeral director from a neighboring town called. If any thing, I knew even less about funerals than I did about weddings, but a couple of days later, there I was, officiating at my first funeral.

What was distinctive about the day was the elderly lady sitting near the back of the church who fainted—that is to say, who was later confirmed to have fainted. At the time, I remember thinking that we might need to have two services that day, but not to worry: it was only the heat (hot, as in a real hot Nebraska summer day), and the ushers, apparently used to that sort of thing, carted her out the door and laid her on the front lawn.

There must be a special place in heaven for those churches that have to put up with newly minted ministers. From day one, we clergy can talk at length about the bad theology behind everyone’s favorite hymns, but until we can properly place the Best Man and Maid of Honor on the chancel steps, a congregation’s only salvation is the patience of Job.

The modern-day mystic Evelyn Underhill, whose writings I have otherwise always appreciated, once compared clergy to those annoying clerks at the post office with whom one must put up in order to get a letter mailed. About the only thing they really need to do, she said, is go on an annual retreat.

Yet, there you have it, pastors and parishes making things work between themselves year after year, members of parishes making things work among themselves year after year, families making things work within themselves year after year even as some get married and others undertake what someone called life’s finest form of adventure.

There is a word that explains how that happens:  covenant, for covenant is the “glue” that holds a body together whether as few as two people or as large as whole parishes and, ideally, even nations—wherever a people travel a common path. Covenantal relationships endure over time, come what may. They honor individual experience and shared wisdom. They arrive at common goals together.

Blessed be the “glue,” the tie that really binds.