You Can Go Home Again

“Sarah Leer! What are you doing here?!” A shocked face greeted me at the door on a Friday night in October as I walked into the welcome center of First Presbyterian Church in Bentonville, Arkansas. “I just moved back!” I replied, happy to be amongst a group of familiar faces. “And your first order of business was to come to the Presbytery meeting?” The incredulous greeter smirked a knowing smile. “Yep!” I replied. And it’s true. On my agenda that week had been to unpack boxes, find my spoons in one of those boxes, and attend the Presbytery of Arkansas worship service and opening business. I know, I know, I’m a nerd who loves a Presbytery meeting.

(Editor’s note: Presbyteries are regional bodies in the Presbyterian governance system. All ministers are members of regional presbyteries. Educators are encouraged to participate in their local presbytery.)

As I looked around the room, I saw pastors and chaplains in the Presbytery who I am lucky enough to call my friend-colleagues. I saw new-to-Arkansas folks, looking around to find connections as they grabbed their name tags. I saw Rev. Stewart Smith, once the person who took me on a dozen trips when I was a youth. I turned to find Joel Gill, Executive Director of Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center (my childhood camp) who gave me a big hug as he said, “I heard you were back!” The Presbytery was gathered, in person, for worship and their October meeting, and people were thrilled to be back together. I sighed deeply; it felt like home.

Now, I know I am privileged to feel at home in this space; I grew up in this Presbytery and I served in the Presbytery as a youth worker. I carry many privileges with me that enable me to walk into a faith space and feel at ease. However, I noticed something this Fall. As an educator and a youth worker, I held a certain lens as I watched each person walk in the door. Some people were weary as they walked in, some were nervous, some were joyous, and some, I’m certain, were carrying invisible burdens and simply trying to make it through to the end of meeting. Each person was greeted, and then given space to find their way through the room. Each person was met where they were that night — and given space to ease into the gathering at their own pace.

I slipped into the pew next to dear friends, giggling as we settled in, happy to be able to occupy the same space for worship. I must tell you, educator/church worker friends, I got so much joy from that worship service and opening business. Because goshdarnit, I love Presbytery meetings. They are chances for me to strengthen relationships, to worship and listen to different voices, to share the gifts of those whom I don’t see each week, and to feel the power of the Spirit moving amongst those who are similarly called. We are not all called to the same work, but we are all called. And during the meeting, I knew I was called to be there.

You’ve made it through the season when many feel burned out, exhausted, and are seeking ways to breathe new life into your ministries, I ask you, “Where is home?” What place feels like a cool drink of water? Who are your people who will help prompt you to take risks, not fear failure, and encourage you along the way? Where can you exhale, share stories, and be rejuvenated for the weeks and months ahead?

Perhaps it is your ecumenical colleagues across town, or a pastoral/educator cohort that gathers digitally each month. Make sure it is a place where you can find respite, encouragement, support, and reciprocity. Who knows, it may even be at the next Presbytery meeting.


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Sarah Leer

is a practical theologian and a former Young Adult Volunteer in New Orleans who recently returned to her home state of Arkansas and is now living in Fayetteville. She is a doctoral student in educational ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary.