Celebrating the Middle Pieces

Recently I visited a member’s home where, off the kitchen, on a sturdy and standard sized table, sat an unfinished puzzle.  The amorphous clumps of clouds on clouds and grass that connected with other pieces of similarly colored grass impressed me.  She’d connected the outlining border, just as we all so often do when beginning a puzzle of any size, but this congregant had also made notable progress on the areas of the puzzle that, well frankly, would have been reason enough for me to give up before starting.

We always had puzzles in my house growing up.  My mother insisted, and insists, that they are a great way to retain and build memory; to make your brain work or wake up.  I rolled my eyes at such things when she’d ask for the family to gather around the table to put a puzzle together.  Each one seemed impossibly large; mean spirited in the holes and protrusions the pieces were shaped by; taunting in how long we would be around that table, staring, hoping, to find something that resembled a match to the puzzle piece we refused to move from.  When forced to participate, I stuck with working on the border.

Church is a lot like a puzzle:  We have a picture of what it should look like.  As a whole, completed, it can appear, well, picturesque.  The pieces are in their places, the border is sturdy and concrete, the hours it takes to make it all work seem enticing to achieve such an end product.

And, like church, depending on how large the puzzle is, the more pieces you get; funny and oddly shaped pieces that meet rigid and clearly defined ones.  Still, somehow (somehow!) they fit together – if you look hard enough, long enough, try out different ways of putting them together, or if you step back with a different perspective.

To me, this is when the beauty of church takes shape.  It isn’t only the structure of a building, its border, or the well defined edges of purpose spoken in Visioning; but it is in discovering that the missing pieces of your life that feel like holes or protrusions, somehow match up with another’s, that we see church become sacred.

In the coming month you will find different opportunities to discover just this; places where the borders are complete, but the middle people, I mean pieces, need connecting.  Covenant Groups and Supper Circles are two such places you might find that missing piece, that connecting piece, that you’ve been searching for.  Covenant Groups are made up of 8-10 people who make a commitment to be with one another twice a month to discuss some of life’s greatest joys and deepest concerns.  These are lay-led groups where you check in on one another’s lives, but also are given readings and discussion questions to help facilitate the conversation and relationships.  Supper Circles are groups of a similar size who gather once a month to join for a meal in a home or restaurant.  It is a time to be social, to get to know one another, and to find how you fit together in the larger – picturesque – puzzle that we call UCS.

In this month of celebration, I invite you to celebrate life’s ambiguous edges and the ways in which they fit so perfectly together.