Coming Full Circle by Ashton Murray

Before joining Life Together, I had a three-year fellowship at Peace Haven Baptist Church. The purpose of the fellowship was to offer seminary students real world opportunities to put into practice what they were learning in the classroom. Almost every time I stood in the pulpit, I would realize the need to draw on skills that I hadn’t quite learned in my Divinity school classes; for example, what are the mechanics of baptizing someone a foot taller than you by immersion, or what do you do when your children’s sermon is going down in flames, or how do you read a psalm of both lament and faithfulness the day after a beloved parishioner dies?

As I prepare for disorientation in a few weeks, I can’t help but to think back to our orientation. Like many of you, my time this year has stretched me in ways that I never thought I would be stretched. I am much more thoughtful about my role in systems and much less excited by weekly taco nights than I was when I entered this program 10 months ago. I have learned how to say no in order to say deeper yesses. I have been reminded of the power that a few committed people can have on a diocese, a city, a state, a country, and the world. In some ways, we have come around full circle…beginning with an invocation in August and now at a time of benediction in June.

One of the many skills that I learned at Peace Haven was the proper way to give a good Baptist benediction. I was told to stand up tall, with my arms outstretched and my hands cupped as if I was trying to hug the entire congregation. Most importantly, my job was to send the congregation out with a blessing that they already implicitly knew: God sees them, knows them, loves them, and goes with them wherever they go. Often I would try to tie the benediction back into my sermon or the gospel text for that day; however, those themes of “God with us” featured prominently in whatever I would say because that is what I knew in my core to be true.

Fellows, I do not know where our different paths will lead us after we depart from the cocoon of Life Together. I do not know what cities you will be in or the work you will do or if we will ever see each other again. But I do know this: God sees you, God knows you, God loves you, and God will go with you wherever you go. Go in peace.