Joy Overflows My Heart
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
To the Beloved Community at YVPC,
I asked Matt if I could write a letter to you in anticipation of our family’s transition to a new worshipping congregation. It is difficult to know where to begin, and for once, I find myself struggling to find the words I want to communicate. How do I express my love for this church and our history together in a single letter? Fourteen years of doing life with others shape us in countless ways, and as I think back over the years we have spent at YVPC I am flooded with conflicting feelings simultaneously: gratitude and grief.
I remember the first Sunday that Matt came to preach at Ygnacio in 2006. In typical Susannah fashion, I slid into the last row just as the worship service was beginning (or maybe a few minutes late...) Little did I know that morning that YVPC would become family and that I would worship with this church community longer than any other church in my life. In October 2006, when we began attending YVPC, I was still in graduate school, Matt and I had only been married four years, and of course, Monrovia and Ruby hadn’t been born yet. I’m so thankful that in the time since, through many seasons of both heartbreak and great joy, we have been a part of this congregation.
As most of you know, I grew up as the daughter of a church planter, which means a common conversation topic I overheard in our house was “how to best grow churches” : new programs for kids and families, mass mailers, relevant sermon series, revamped logo, accessible messages, renaming the church to something more contemporary, community outreach, market with ads in local media or posts in social media, Vacation Bible School, change the service time, add a second service, get rid of hymns and spice up the music, redo the church website….and on and on. Not that any of those are inherently bad ideas, but in my 14 years at Ygnacio Valley I have learned that maybe the best way to foster church growth is to grow in faith and hope and love, rather than just in members. Of course, there are very real stressors in being a part of a small church: the precarious nature of finances, the need for enough leaders to meet the demands of the community, the comparison to larger congregations across town. At the same time, I want you each to know how sacred and beautiful this community is even though it is a small congregation. Time after time, when we have had friends or family visit Ygnacio, and more recently who have joined our Zoom, they almost universally remark on what a special and unique community this is. We are flawed, yes, because we are human beings in need of a good God who can change us. We are small, yes, but our faith runs deep. We are weary at times, yes, but we follow a God who does not grow tired. We are a people of abundance not scarcity.
I cannot imagine a more supportive, loving faith community. From the very first days, when Sonia in her role as deacon would call me weekly to check in on me, and Dick and Chet would stand outside the front doors to greet us, you have given me the space to forge my own role as Pastor Matt’s wife. I showed up a few minutes late, brought my coffee into the sanctuary, took over the back row as a makeshift nursery-then-Sunday-School-room for the girls, led worship and shared unconventional stories about life and God, and you accepted me for who I was. You have embraced Monrovia and Ruby since they were still in my belly, and through all of their stages you have been beyond generous with your attention and kindness, little gifts and kind words, your resources and hugs. When Monrovia was diagnosed with deafness, and then later that year when my relationship with my dad ended very painfully, you let me cry in my pew and were a source of comfort and grace and hugs. Your love for us has been open-handed and does not run out, which is an image of the way God loves.
I am very grateful for so much including
The honor of knowing and then grieving the losses of many in our community including
Sonia, Stanna, Jean, Betty, Chet, Sam, Mary, Dick, Dorene, Bev, Thea, Hana, Hugh
The gift of music from Christie, Linda, Todd, Matthew, Lee
The bounty of food & conversation every Sunday after the service
The kind notes I’ve gotten over the years from so many of you that I’ve tucked away to keep forever
The extra fruit and vegetables that Kathy, Ruth, Christie and others bring to take home
The post-sermon wisdom or stories so many of you have shared
Getting to lead worship
Knowing your extended family and friends over the years, and watching families grow and evolve
Playing games, singing karaoke, retreat time at Zephyr Point, food & culture with the Hispanic congregation
The joy of knowing my kids are safe running around the church building
Singing happy birthday or celebrating an anniversary at coffee hour
Nick’s card ministry
The food pantry, caring for immigrants & gathering gifts for others
Singing Silent Night together in the church courtyard on Christmas Eve
Acting out Bible passages
Passing the Peace of Christ with you and bumping elbows or shaking hands or exchanging hugs
Little thoughtful gifts
The creativity and community of the women’s retreat and crafting and cookie days
The always joyful if exhausting crab feed
Your grace for our girls
The incredible ways you all show up to love each other and love God
I thank God for each one of you; you have let our family, with our flaws and quirks, into your hearts and lives. And somehow God works together in us to make this corner of the world look a little more like the beauty, goodness, justice, wholeness and grace of God's Kingdom. As we transition away from Ygnacio, my prayer will continue to be one that we say together every Sunday:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with us, wherever He may send us.
May He guide us through the wilderness, protect us through the storm.
May He bring us home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown us.
May He bring us home rejoicing once again into our doors.
With a full heart, many tears, and much love,