The neighbors who regularly attend our evening food pantries often become friends, as Pastor Brad Cunningham of Union United Methodist Church can attest. He reflects on this relationship after one of these neighbors died unexpectedly. In his own words …
A week ago today I received a phone call. One of the people who comes regularly to our food pantry died unexpectedly. He was 49 years old, and one of my favs to see in the parking lot as I manage traffic. When I saw that pickup truck pull up I would smile. So kind, gracious, and funny. His kindness was contagious.
I learned from his family that he considered his Thursday visits his way of coming to church. The last couple days I’ve heard more and more of how important Thursdays were for him, not for the food, but to be received as a child of God. And he’s right. He could come to meet Jesus, see Jesus, be with Jesus, but frankly I saw Christ in him.
I was humbled to officiate his service. It was painful and grace filled. Today, we laid him to rest, and I’ve pondered this a lot. (As far as I know) he didn’t come for Sunday worship, join the choir, visit on special occasions, but for him, Thursday was his Sabbath. So yeah, he was a part of our church, a member, and not in the traditional sense.
Often when we think about belonging to a church we’re looking for “butts in pews.” A helpful metric for sure, but a narrow focus also. For this gentle soul, Thursday was his Sunday, and I imagine that’s true for many others. I think it’s important we recognize this, where there are Sabbath times, worship times, places where we encounter Jesus the other days of the week for those people who want to belong but 9 am on Sunday is impossible.
Rest in peace dear friend, we at Union and beyond love you and we miss you already.