I was 16 years old and living in Southern California when a family from New York moved to Orange County. Before they moved, they had picked my little UCC church as the congregation they wanted to be a part of, and planned to attend worship their first Sunday in town. So when their 7-year-old son was struck and killed by a small truck as he was crossing the street at his bus stop, they told the hospital that they already had a pastor and gave them Dr. Anwyl (our minister’s) name. Dr. Anwly as called and he (along with some other members of our church) sat vigil with this heartbroken family over the next several days. They came to church that Sunday just as they had planned, only two or three days after their son’s death and Dr. Anwyl, shared their story with the congregation. The grief in the room was palpable and our minister called for everyone in the sanctuary to stand and surround this family. They were wrapped in our arms, literally and figuratively, just held in their devastation. Then Dr. Anwyl said, “The only tears God has are our tears. The only arms God has are our arms. The only hands God has are our hands.” And in that moment, it all became clear to me. I was called to be an extension of God on this earth, to do God’s work in this world. And by this, I certainly don’t mean that I alone am called to do this or that I am being God, but I am a vessel through which God can (and I hope does) work. I have taken Dr. Anwyl’s words to heart and it has informed my ministry. In the church I serve, we often talk about going out into the world as the hands and feet of Christ. While we are not solely responsible for doing God’s work in the world, it is a crucial aspect of our faith. In fact, in many ways, it is tangible proof of our faith, or the fruits of the spirit, if you will. So my prayer is that we allow the Spirit to move through our lives, bearing fruit in the places where souls are most hungry. As the Spirit blows through us with the winds of Pentecost, may we be God’s tears that fall, God’s arms that hold, and God’s hands that reach out. For, as Teresa of Avila said, Christ has no body now but yours.
by Emily Bowen
Emily Bowen is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and coauthor of Toward a Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church is Good News for Mainline Congregations. Emily is a graduate of Chapman University, Christian Theological Seminary, and Phillips Theological Seminary, and she currently serves as a pastor at Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri, where she lends leadership to the Awakening, an emerging community rooted in Brentwood Christian Church.