On Tuesday at 7:20 a.m., I pulled into the parking lot of St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship where Pastor Samuel was hosting one of his two lectionary groups — the one he (I suppose) lovingly refers to as the Old Hippies, distinct from the other group which is comprised of the Young Hippies. At 29, I was the youngest person in the room. The old hippies were an ecumenical hodgepodge.
I was first greeted by a retired UCC minister, who hugged me and asked what I was doing. We had never met, but she introduced herself as if an old friend catching up after several weeks of absence. Ed, whose email identity is “Lost Friar,” began explaining that he was a Franciscan, “a type of Catholic.” He seemed impressed when I teasingly responded “oh yes, I’ve heard of those,” perhaps believing that Baptist interns of Mennonite churches (Several SLMF folks have told me they enjoy including both denominations in my title, as it makes both me and the church seem more ecumenical) have not been exposed to such groups as The Catholics.
Ed quickly adopted me, introducing me to each member of the group as they arrived: the black Episcopalian priest who has his sermons completed long before showing up to lectionary group, the King James Only participant who somehow finds a comfortable place with those who edit the New Revised Standard Version to remove masculine pronouns for God, Disciples ministers, a female Catholic chaplain, a Presbyterian, and the couple from Kenya — the man who pointed out that his wife was the pastor of the church — who hugged me tightly proclaiming “I need to get to know you. You should come to Kenya with me.”
We discussed how tomato plants grow, the significance of Juneteenth, and what it might possibly mean to be a new creation. We shared prayer requests and held hands while praying for one another. The group was careful to make sure everyone was sharing something. I was called out to share my own insights, as were several other group members who were not quick to jump into conversation.
And they called me “Jen” — while I typically spell the nickname with two “n”s, it felt distinctly singular and familiar. I was the new young hippy, and I was welcome.