For the last 32 months I have been a pastor in a Northwest, logging town of 1700 people. There are small towns and then there is where I live, which is dinky.
I have loved every minute of living here. I have loved the scenery, the people, the identity, the community. Just this morning towards the end of my run I ran into one of my congregants downtown. All the small business owners know who I am. Likewise, I am well known at the schools.
Moreover, this is one of the most laid back places in America. There is a libertarian attitude to the whole town that is quite jarring at first but quite endearing over time. In fact, I have often said the best thing about Elgin is also the worst thing about Elgin. It is that you can get away with murder here. That is great news, unless you are being murdered and, by metaphor, I have been murdered a few times.
But last September I sensed God was calling me elsewhere. In early January I was officially called by a small congregation in a suburb of Salt Lake City, UT where 80,000 people live. It is the exact opposite of Elgin.
I am quite certain God has called me to this new venture. . However, living in a tiny town has been a lot like going to summer camp and this is Friday, the day everybody goes home.
So before I change that byline on your left from “A Small Town Pastor’s Thoughts About Grace” to “A Small Church Pastor’s Thoughts About Grace” I thought I would take a moment to try to articulate my love for this place.
I have known for a few months this day was coming so I have had time to think long and hard about what this post would be. A month ago I read a wonderful chapter in Barbara Brown Taylor’s book “An Altar In The World.” The chapter was about the practice of blessing others. It got me thinking that the best way to properly describe and honor the town I am leaving would be to pronounce the Lord’s blessing upon it.
So here goes:
God Bless Elgin, OR, its people, its businesses, it organizations and its churches.
May the Lord richly bless the citizens both young and old
Bless those who live in the town and those who live in the fields around,
Bless those who just moved here, whether young and broke or old and retired.
Bless those who were born here and will never leave and bless those whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents have invested heavily in this town’s prosperity.
Bless those who just arrived. May their love for this place be greater than my own.
Bless those are poor and live in trailers. May they find acceptance, wholeness and meaningful work.
Bless those who farm the land on each side. May the heavens bring them rain in its season and dry, sunny weather when its needed. May their crops and fields yield enough produce to feed thousands.
Bless the lumber mill and its employees. May their efforts to conserve the forest continue to provide lumber for many centuries to come. May your employees find satisfaction and enjoyment in their work and may the administration administer fairly and equitably.
Bless the homeless teenagers. May they not only find a couch to sleep on but a family to give them the warmth and comfort a couch never could.
Bless the single moms. There are far too many. May the Lord bring them sustainable income, blessings of wisdom, and stress free days. May the Lord be the father their children never had.
Bless the alcoholics and drug addicts. May they find freedom from addictions and identity in Christ. May their testimonies cause many to give thanks to the Lord.
Bless the schools, their students, teachers, staff and administrators. May the Lord’s wisdom prevail so that the students do not just learn data but become critical thinkers and engaged citizens.
Bless the businesses, both the start-ups and those firmly established. May they employ many with gainful wages. May their income be ethically earned and may their products and transactions bring joy and mirth to the community.
Bless the clubs and associations: the quilting, the Lyons, the Opera House, the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development, the City Council, the High School Associations, the Sports teams, and all else. May their efforts bring unity and coherency and identity to all those who participate.
Bless the churches. May their efforts to work together and sing together not overshadow their need to pray together. May the Lord hear their prayers. May the Lord bless and increase their members. And may they seek the peace of this place.
Lord, bless this town. Pour out your spirit on the rich and poor, the young and old, the hardworking and lazy, the truck drivers, millwrights, small business owners, farmers and commuters.
Bring your peace and prosperity to its people. Bring your love and warmth and grace. Do not withhold any blessing but richly give all good things.